Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged widespread dissatisfaction with the massive power outage launched by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in Northern California but said he believed it was necessary to prevent more wind-driven wildfires sparked by utility lines.
“No one is satisfied with this. But I do believe with the limited number of tools in the toolkit what they’re doing is appropriate under the circumstances,” he said. “I tell you what would not be appropriate. To not turn out the lights and literally turn our back to public safety and put the lives of thousands of people at risk. That is not a gross exaggeration.”
He cited last year’s most destructive wind-driven wildfires — one in Paradise, the other in Ventura and L.A. counties — as examples of the threat the state faces.
“We cannot allow that to happen on our watch,” he said. “And so far this year we’ve been blessed.”
The governor said his family, like many in Northern California, has been affected.
“My kids are home right now. Everybody in Northern California in some way, shape or form, directly or indirectly, is being impacted by this,” he said.
Millions of Californians could spend days without power amid PG&E efforts to prevent more fires during winds this week.
The first power cutoffs, affecting about 513,000 PG&E customers, began shortly after midnight Wednesday in several counties around Sacramento, including Placer and Yuba. Roughly five hours later, the outages had extended to Humboldt County to the north, Marin County to the south and Nevada County to the east, according to a map provided by the utility.
The second phase of the shutoff was expected to begin around noon in areas around Silicon Valley and the East San Francisco Bay Area, but the utility said those outages would be delayed until later in the day. About 234,000 customers in Alameda, Alpine, Contra Costa, Mariposa, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and parts of Mendocino and Calaveras counties are expected to lose power by the evening.
The PG&E blackouts will ultimately affect 34 counties in Central and Northern California, more than half of the counties in the state. Overall, power to about 800,000 customers is expected to be shut off, leaving more than 2 million people in the dark, as potentially hazardous winds continue to strengthen throughout the day.