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California

PG&E shut off power to far fewer than anticipated, and restoration has already begun

The Pacific Gas & Electric Service Center in San Rafael, Calif.
The Pacific Gas & Electric Service Center in San Rafael, Calif.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

More than 14,000 people whose power was turned off Wednesday by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. amid increased fire danger in Northern California had their power restored overnight, and the utility is in the process of turning the electricity back on for tens of thousands more.

PG&E had initially announced 450,000 residents were expected to lose power midweek as high winds and low humidity contributed to an elevated fire risk across the region. But by Wednesday afternoon, weather had improved, allowing the utility to twice decrease the scope of its preemptive shutoffs.

In all, 150,000 people in 11 counties — including Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Lake, Mendocino and Napa — lost power.

A red flag warning remained in place Thursday morning after a low-pressure system descended into Southern California, bringing strong winds to the Bay Area and rain to Los Angeles.

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Wind gusts in Northern California reached 55 mph but were expected to die down. PG&E said it expected power to be restored to all customers by 6 p.m.

Utility officials were able to make the latest round of public safety shutoffs smaller partly because weather conditions were not as intense as last month, when nearly half a million people were left in the dark for days. PG&E Chief Executive Andy Vesey said in a news conference Tuesday night that the utility’s goal was to continue to diminish the scale of the shutoffs.

“We’re making that commitment very publicly that next year we will not be in this situation,” Vesey said. “We will be able to protect the public in ways that are not as terribly disruptive as they are today.”

By the next fire season, the utility hopes to install additional weather systems for more focused data, automated power switches that will help shutoffs become more efficient and generators that will allow the utility to keep the lights on in customers’ homes.


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