SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Embattled California utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) confirmed on Wednesday morning that it plans to move ahead with another widespread "public safety power shutoff" across more than a dozen counties in the state. The company said that it based the decision on forecasts for dry, hot and windy weather that could cause wildfires to spread quickly.
This shutoff could affect about 179,000 households and businesses throughout 17 counties primarily in the Sierra foothills and North Bay area: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Kern, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Mateo, Sierra, Sonoma, Tehama and Yuba.
PG&E's last shutoff affected more than 2 million people earlier this month. The move has proven controversial, with lawmakers threatening an investigation of the utility's strategy and Governor Gavin Newsom suggesting that PG&E compensate customers for hardships caused by the blackout.
This round of shutoffs is expected to begin around 2 p.m. in the Sierra foothills, 3 p.m. in the North Bay area, and about 1 a.m. on Thursday in San Mateo and Kern counties.
"Forecasts indicate the peak period of winds should end about noon Thursday in the Sierra Foothills, North Bay and San Mateo County, and around noon Friday in Kern County," PG&E said in a statement.
"Once the high winds subside, PG&E will inspect the de-energized lines to ensure they were not damaged during the wind event, and then restore power," the company continued. "PG&E will safely restore power in stages as quickly as possible, with the goal of restoring the vast majority of customers within 48 hours after the weather has passed."
PG&E said that it notified potentially impacted customers on Monday and again on Tuesday, "and will continue to notify" customers with updates — assuming that the customers have provided their contact information to the company.
"It is also very possible that customers may be affected by a power shutoff even though they are not experiencing extreme weather conditions in their specific location," PG&E said. "This is because the electric system relies on power lines working together to provide electricity across cities, counties and regions."
Damaged or faulty PG&E equipment under similar weather conditions has been responsible for several devastating wildfires over previous years, investigators determined — including the 2018 Camp Fire, which caused the deaths of 85 people.