Massive Power Outages in Northern California as PG&E Avoids Wildfire Risk
The massive utility PG&E, which provides natural gas and electricity to almost two-thirds of the state of California, is taking a new approach to wildfire risk: it's preemptively shutting off power to hundreds of thousands of customers during a high wind event to prevent the kind of catastrophic fire that destroyed the city of Paradise in 2018 and killed 88 people trapped by the flames.
Critics of the plan say the actions are the result of years of neglect by the investor owned utility, and will do more to protect PG&E from liability than prevent wildfires.
For local news on the subject, see coverage by Michael Cabanatuan, J.D. Morris, and Lauren Hernández for the San Francisco Chronicle, providing the earliest details of the promised power outage.
"Pacific Gas and Electric Co. shut off power to more than 141,000 Bay Area customers before dawn Wednesday in the first of an expected wave of blackouts intended to avert a destructive wildfire like those that took dozens of lives and destroyed thousands of homes over the past two years."
On Wednesday morning, Sonoma County was dealing with the largest number of power outages; 67,000 residences and businesses had lost power. According to the article, PG&E expects to cut power to 800,000 customers in the next few days, starting in more northern service areas before heading south.
The San Francisco Chronicle is also providing a map of power outages to keep track of the geographic scope of the emergency in real time. There is also a hashtag on Twitter, #PSPS, for a collection of insights, breaking news, and personal accounts of the power outage.
For additional local coverage of the outages, see an article by Camille Von Kaenel for the Chico Enterprise Record (Chico is the largest city located proximate to Paradise, and has dealt with the displacement repercussions of the Camp Fire). According to Kaenel, the power outages reveals ongoing gaps in the electricity infrastructure in Butte County, a year after the Camp Fire.
Many Northern Californians on social media on Tuesday night noted a relative lack of attention to the developing story among national and East Coast media outlets, but outlets from coast to coast picked up the story today. Hannah Fry, Joseph Serna, and Patrick McGreevy report for the Los Angeles Times. Jim Carlton and Katherine Blunt report for the Wall Street Journal. Thomas Fuller reports for The New York Times. Brakkton Booker reports for NPR.