The largest utility in California began turning off the lights for millions of customers in the northern part of the Golden State early Wednesday, a shutoff that could last for days due to what officials are calling an unprecedented wildfire danger that could lead to “explosive” blazes.
Pacific Gas & Electric said early Wednesday it implemented the first phase of a Public Safety Power Shutoff ahead of the “widespread, severe wind event,” impacting 513,000 customers in 22 counties at midnight. A second phase will occur at noon, impacting 234,000 customers in seven additional counties.
“The safety of our customers and the communities we serve is our most important responsibility, which is why PG&E has decided to turn the power off to customers during this widespread, severe wind event,” Michael Lewis, PG&E’s senior vice president of Electric Operations, said in a statement. “We understand the effects this event will have on our customers and appreciate the public’s patience as we do what is necessary to keep our communities safe and reduce the risk of wildfire.”
Officials said the third phase of shutoffs is being considered for the utility’s southernmost service area that would impact up to 42,000 customers.
“The decision to turn off power was based on forecasts of dry, hot and windy weather including potential fire risk,” the utility said. “Based on the latest weather forecasts and models, PG&E anticipates that this weather event will last through midday Thursday, with peak winds forecasted from Wednesday morning through Thursday morning and reaching 60 to 70 mph at higher elevations.”