No traffic lights and days of darkness. Here's how life has changed inside Northern California's power shutoff

California's biggest utility has cut power to hundreds...

Posted: Oct 10, 2019 3:39 AM
Updated: Oct 10, 2019 8:00 AM

California's biggest utility has cut power to hundreds of thousands of residents to prevent wildfires, catching some by surprise despite months of warnings.

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A forecast of strong winds is posing a major fire danger, prompting Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to launch the preventive outage to reduce the risk of blazes set off by power lines, the company said.

Here are some answers to key questions:

How long will the outages last?

At least a week for some.

The wind is expected to subside Friday, and PG&E crews will then examine their system for damage and begin to restore power for customers. That could take several days after the wind dies down, company officials said.

How many people will be affected?

PG&E cut power Wednesday to nearly 800,000 customers in Northern California, beginning a series of planned outages.

By the time the sequence of outages is over, nearly 2 million people could be affected as it drags on for days, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said. Customers across 34 counties will be affected.

Why deliberately turn off power?

Some of the deadliest fires in Northern California have been blamed on downed power lines.

Last year's devastating Camp Fire that killed 85 people and destroyed thousands of structures was started by electrical lines owned by PG&E. The company filed for bankruptcy in January as it came under pressure from billions of dollars in claims tied to deadly wildfires.

To avoid being blamed for another wildfire, some utilities have decided to cut power during high winds when the fire risk is elevated. In addition to PG&E, utility company Southern California Edison is also turning off power to a small number of people in affected areas.

Will people be able to charge their phones?

PG&E has set up about 30 community centers that are providing services including air conditioning, restrooms, bottled water and electronic charging stations.

How about traffic lights -- are they working?

Probably not in affected areas, so don't try to get on the roads, the San Jose mayor said. If you reach an intersection without a working street light, treat it as a four-way stop, Liccardo said.

Gas stations and ATMs will also be down during the shutoff, he said.

Will it affect cell phone service?

With the power out, residents will mainly rely on their phones for updates and communication with loved ones. And major cell phone companies say they're working to ensure the cell service does not go off, too.

Major companies, such as Sprint and T-Mobile, said they have generators available at major cell sites to ensure they remain in service and they're deploying generators to those that don't have them.

'We have permanent generators in key cell sites to ensure they remain in service and other sites are prepared with battery backup,' T-Mobile says.

What public facilities will be closed?

Police, fire, water, sewer and garbage-pickup services will continue, and the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system isn't expected to shut down, though some stations may face escalator outage.

A number of schools canceled classes on Thursday, including UC Berkeley and Sonoma State University. All schools in the Napa Valley and Cloverdale unified school districts, along with some Santa Rosa schools, will be closed Thursday, as well.

People who rely on medical devices are urged to get them charged at community centers that will remain powered, officials said.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 133851

Reported Deaths: 1803
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah28467459
Washington18734171
Marion16247239
Clackamas11698138
Lane8353109
Jackson693085
Umatilla679368
Deschutes499936
Yamhill319045
Malheur313552
Linn311646
Polk245540
Klamath242838
Josephine174333
Benton170514
Jefferson170525
Douglas168743
Union111416
Wasco108123
Columbia104918
Lincoln99617
Hood River95421
Coos93815
Morrow93810
Clatsop6865
Crook62110
Baker5685
Tillamook3652
Curry3245
Lake2305
Grant2131
Harney1754
Wallowa963
Gilliam511
Sherman470
Wheeler201
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3015644

Reported Deaths: 33724
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles102419013936
San Bernardino2540941560
Riverside2422062517
Orange2123892367
San Diego2117872103
Santa Clara935571076
Kern85362565
Fresno82039932
Sacramento801541080
Alameda67375764
Ventura61257412
San Joaquin57094748
Contra Costa52146449
Stanislaus42548749
Tulare41016501
Monterey35418250
San Mateo32186294
San Francisco29139262
Imperial25253463
Solano25216105
Santa Barbara24481231
Sonoma23871240
Merced23800296
Kings19254133
Placer17194173
San Luis Obispo15658128
Madera13328130
Santa Cruz12196113
Marin11569154
Yolo10519131
Shasta9594117
Butte9411121
El Dorado765944
Sutter760477
Napa752139
Lassen509413
San Benito494143
Yuba481827
Tehama397142
Tuolumne330438
Nevada317673
Mendocino311432
Amador300129
Lake257228
Humboldt232224
Glenn192419
Colusa16919
Calaveras160823
Siskiyou140813
Mono10914
Inyo92429
Del Norte8572
Plumas5735
Modoc3793
Mariposa3464
Trinity3024
Alpine730
Sierra700
Unassigned00
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