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US Tempers flare as millions in California endure power outages from PG&E

16:30  10 october  2019
16:30  10 october  2019 Source:   latimes.com

California adds new rules for planned power shutoffs under laws signed by Newsom

  California adds new rules for planned power shutoffs under laws signed by Newsom Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Wednesday to tighten the rules for utility power shutoffs as California grapples with more frequent planned outages when potentially dangerous wildfire conditions exist.The new requirements call for investor-owned utilities to create plans to lessen the effects of outages on customers with sensitive medical needs and notify all emergency responders, healthcare providers and public safety groups within an outage area. The laws are among roughly two dozen bills related to wildfires that Newsom has signed into law this year.

The preventive power outages in Northern California could leave more than 2 million people without lights, air California residents are demanding answers and accountability after the unprecedented Those conditions prompted the state's largest power utility, PG & E , to shut off electricity to more than

California 's rising fire danger. The utility’s outage track record is wanting. Data published by the California Public Utilities Commission this month shows across all three utilities it regulates in California , there have been 4,082,970 customer hours of preemptive outages since the end of 2017.

Classes were canceled. Frozen foods melted. Hospitals switched to emergency generators. Blooms withered in florists' coolers. Unused food was jettisoned at shuttered restaurants. Lines formed at gas stations. Cellphones faded out.

a man sitting on a table: Carlos Lama of Bayside Cafe, which was among businesses to lose power due to PG&E's public safety power shutoff, uses an LED lamp and light from his phone at the counter of the restaurant in Sausalito, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. More than a million people in California were without electricity Wednesday as the state's largest utility pulled the plug to prevent a repeat of the past two years when windblown power lines sparked deadly wildfires that destroyed thousands of homes. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal via AP)© ASSOCIATED PRESS Carlos Lama of Bayside Cafe, which was among businesses to lose power due to PG&E's public safety power shutoff, uses an LED lamp and light from his phone at the counter of the restaurant in Sausalito, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. More than a million people in California were without electricity Wednesday as the state's largest utility pulled the plug to prevent a repeat of the past two years when windblown power lines sparked deadly wildfires that destroyed thousands of homes. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal via AP)

That's what happened Wednesday when the state's largest utility shut off power to millions of Californians in a

800,000 Californians could be without power by the end of the day

  800,000 Californians could be without power by the end of the day By the end of the day, more than half of all California counties could be without power. In an attempt to prevent wildfires, the state's largest utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is rolling out a planned power outage. Once fully implemented, it will leave an estimated 800,000 customers in the dark and span from Silicon Valley to the Sierra. Why cut the power? It's become evident that overhead power lines are to blame for some of California'sIt's become evident that overhead power lines are to blame for some of California's worst wildfires. Sparks from those power lines have ignited some of the largest and most deadly fires in recent history, including the Camp Fire in Paradise, California.

Tempers flare as millions in California endure power outages from PG & E , Los Angeles Times, October 10, 2019. Classes were canceled. That’s what happened Wednesday when the state’s largest utility shut off power to millions of Californians in a drastic attempt to avoid the killer wildfires

Pacific Gas and Electric Company is shutting off power for 940,000 homes and businesses in Northern California to prevent more wildfires The weekend outage is the second major shutoff by PG & E this month, after the company two weeks ago cut power to nearly 2 million people to avoid

drastic attempt to avoid the killer wildfires that have charred hundreds of thousands of acres, caused billions of dollars in damage and spurred cries for widespread change in how electricity is delivered over the state's aging grid.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. began cutting power to customers shortly after midnight in counties around Sacramento. By the end of the day, the outages had radiated out to encompass 34 counties, with all but seven counties north of Merced at least partly in the dark.

About 800,000 customers were expected to lose power Wednesday, leaving more than 2 million people without lights, air conditioning, computers and refrigerators. Gusty conditions are expected through Thursday morning, and PG&E fears windblown electrical lines could spark fires if power is not cut.

Outage outrage: Hundreds of thousands left in the dark to reduce wildfire risk

  Outage outrage: Hundreds of thousands left in the dark to reduce wildfire risk As California faces a critical fire danger, utility companies are preemptively shutting off power to hundreds of thousands of customers in the Golden State.As California faces a critical fire danger, utility companies are preemptively shutting off power to hundreds of thousands of customers in the Golden State -- and it could take up to five days to restore.

Pacific Gas and Electric spokesman Mark Mesesan said Wednesday that it may take days to restore electricity to some customers because power 'A victim of their own failure':Why PG & E 's massive power shutdown in California was inevitable. The first phase of the Public Safety Power Shutoff cut

Power outages begin in California to prevent wildfires. Southern California Edison cut power to almost 24,000 customers as winds picked up in the region Thursday. And the financial impact has been devastating. San Jose city said it lost at least half a million dollars and the number is expected

The move by PG&E marks the largest power shut-off to date as California utilities attempt to reduce wildfire risks. Equipment malfunctions have been tied to some of the state's most destructive and deadliest fires, including the 2017 wine country blazes and last year's Camp fire, which devastated the town of Paradise and killed 85 people.

In January, PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, anticipating multibillion-dollar legal claims stemming from the Camp fire, which also destroyed nearly 14,000 homes. A month later, officials at the utility acknowledged that its equipment probably sparked that blaze.

"The safety of our customers and the communities we serve is our most important responsibility, which is why PG&E has decided to turn power off to customers during this widespread, severe wind event,"

Michael Lewis, PG&E's senior vice president of electric operations, said Wednesday. "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."

Inside California's power shutoff: No traffic lights and days of darkness

  Inside California's power shutoff: No traffic lights and days of darkness California's biggest utility has cut power to hundreds of thousands of residents to prevent wildfires, catching some by surprise despite months of warnings. © Augie Martin/CNN This Starbucks in Sausalito, north of San Francisco, was among the businesses closed Wednesday during a massive, intentional power outage in Northern California. FOLLOW LIVE UPDATES require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.

PG & E turned off the power for more than 700,000 customers to keep them safe from wildfires. As The New York Times points out, five out of the 10 most destructive wildfires in California history PG & E has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to figure that out. “If the assumptions in your analysis

Pacific Gas & Electric , California ’s largest utility, has been responsible for wildfires in recent years that PG & E also spent millions less on operations and maintenance than it was supposed to. State officials say there is a good template elsewhere in California for what PG & E should be aiming for: the

But tempers flared against the utility everyone loves to hate — enough so that a cautious PG&E erected barriers around its San Francisco headquarters Wednesday. At the same time, the California Highway Patrol was investigating whether someone shot at a PG&E truck Tuesday night.

The CHP initially reported that a rock had shattered the passenger-side window of one of the utility's vehicles, which was traveling south on Interstate 5 in the small Northern California town of Maxwell. But when an officer took a closer look, there was "some evidence that it might have been a bullet that hit the window," said Officer Cal Robertson of the CHP's Northern Division.

PG&E officials did not respond to a request for comment.

The big question circulating through darkened homes and stores Wednesday was whether cutting power is even a good way to stop wildfires.

The state's fire protection agency has not studied whether power cut offs have had any

effect on the number of wildfires in California, said Scott McLean, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which is not part of the decision-making process when a utility considers such a drastic measure.

Gov. Newsom slams PG&E over 'unacceptable' power outages and failure to fix systems

  Gov. Newsom slams PG&E over 'unacceptable' power outages and failure to fix systems LOS ANGELES - California Gov. Gavin Newsom tore into Pacific Gas & Electric Co. on Thursday, calling the mass power outages "unacceptable" and the result of the bankrupt utility's own long legacy of mistakes. "What's happened is unacceptable. And it's happened because of neglect. It's happened because of decisions that were deferred, delayed or not made by the largest investor-owned utility in the state of California and one of the largest in the nation," he said at a news conference. "This current operation is unacceptable. The current conditions and circumstances are unacceptable.

Pacific Gas & Electric ( PG & E ) announced Monday it may shut off power this week in nearly 30 northern California counties in response to strong and dry winds posing a fire threat.

Pacific Gas & Electric Corp., or PG & E , began shutting off power in phases early Wednesday to about 500,000 customers in northern and central parts Because customers include businesses in addition to individual homes, PG & E said the shutdown could affect as many as 2 million Californians in all.

"We're like everybody else — we adapt accordingly," McLean said. "These power outages aren't hampering our response capabilities. We're making sure we have the power and logistical support we need to keep functioning."

UC Berkeley economics professor Severin Borenstein spent much of Wednesday like everyone else in Northern California: preparing for the PG&E blackout to arrive. Classes were canceled at UC Berkeley, which was notified by PG&E that power would be cut to most of the core campus by 11 a.m.

Without a backup generator or a stockpile of spare phone chargers, Borenstein's plan to keep his refrigerator cool and his phone running was to connect each device to a charger that would get juice from his car, which he'd leave idling as long as necessary.

"I've packed the freezer with ice to keep it cool, but if I can run [the refrigerator] off our car for a couple of hours a day to bring it to minimum temperature, that will help," Borenstein said. "It's a pain in the ass. This is why we live in a modern economy, so we don't have to spend most of our lives doing these things."

But how Borenstein and millions of other Californians — and the utilities that serve them — arrived at this point began long before this week's weather forecast or the fires that have ravaged the state over the last few years.

Saddleridge fire is 19% contained near Los Angeles; Winds weaken

  Saddleridge fire is 19% contained near Los Angeles; Winds weaken The Saddleridge fire near Los Angeles has consumed 7,500 acres though winds are easing up. Tens of thousands of people still can't return home.The National Weather Service said the winds, though weaker, were still expected to produce gusts up to 30 mph, creating dangerous fire conditions in the dry, wooded hills of northwest Los Angeles.

PG&E's shut

down strategy to avoid starting fires is the result of California's energy economy being thrown off balance by climate change, Borenstein said. Southern California Edison has announced that it also could cut power to customers, but on a smaller scale. San Diego Gas & Electric Co. has taken similar measures in the past.

"Utilities have been having transmission and distribution failures since there's been electricity, and they've started fires," Borenstein said. "The difference is in the last decade we've seen the start of massive fires in ways that weren't happening before."

Because of the blackout, classes were canceled at campuses throughout Northern California. All facilities in the El Dorado Union High School District in the Sierra foothills east of Sacramento were closed Wednesday; the district said it would extend the cancellations into a second day Thursday. The California State University system canceled classes at Sonoma State and Humboldt State, affecting about 17,000 students.

In the Sierra foothills town of Placerville, the power went out about 3 a.m., leaving many residents angry and scrambling for supplies. Customers roamed the aisles of Placerville Hardware in darkness at midmorning, loading up on flashlights, oil lamps and batteries. Cash registers ran on a generator.

"There isn't a tree moving right now because of the wind," said Tod Pickett, who was buying battery-powered lamps. "And they are telling us there's a hurricane. There are 12 billion reasons why PG&E is sticking it to us," he continued, referring to the monetary settlements paid after past fires.

Authorities: 3 deaths tied to Southern California wildfires

  Authorities: 3 deaths tied to Southern California wildfires LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three people have died at the scene of Southern California wildfires this week, authorities said Saturday, as firefighters aided by diminishing winds beat back a blaze on the edge of Los Angeles that damaged or destroyed more than 30 structures and sent a blanket of smoke across a swath of neighborhoods. Los Angeles officials said the fire in the city's San Fernando Valley area hadn't grown significantly since Friday, and ground crews were tamping down lingering hotspots. Evacuation orders were lifted in all of Los Angeles County and in parts of Riverside County, where a second blaze was burning.Shortly before 5 p.m.

Pickett wasn't the only Californian on Wednesday to accuse PG&E of putting its interests ahead of its customers'. Lilli Heart eventually took the utility to task, too. But it took her a while to reach that point.

The power in her lakefront home in Cottonwood went out at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. At first, her Facebook posts were upbeat, even cheerful. She'd lost everything in the Camp fire 11 months earlier, so what's a little darkness to a 73-year-old survivor who fled Paradise and started over?

"OK power now down glad I just got my bowl of ice cream eating by flashlight," she wrote, signing off with a heart emoji.

Eleven or so hours later, she was still mostly holding her own: "The wind is certainly strong today," she posted to Facebook. "My hummingbirds are struggling to get to their feeders. They are freaking out. Cold here too. So with no electricity or propane I used what was left to get some hot water out of the tap the last of it to make more nectar for them."

And another heart.

By lunchtime, though, all bets were off. She'd swung by the vet to pick up medication for her ailing rescue cat and his cancerous thyroid. She then headed to the market for groceries, knowing the place was cash only and all she had on hand was $15.

When Heart answered her cellphone, she let loose on PG&E and its hobbled electrical grid.

"I'm really mad at them," fumed the jewelry maker who works from a home studio. "We've had high winds in California for years and they've never shut down the power. It's unconscionable…. They're talking about possibly six days. I have nine orders today. I can't fill my orders. And that's just me. Some people are on oxygen. I think the governor needs to step in and do something."

The governor did do something Wednesday, but not what Heart had in mind. At a housing-related event in San Diego, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he supports the utility's decision to take "proactive measures" in the face of severe wildfire conditions.

But he lashed out, again, at PG&E leadership for not putting more effort over the years into preparing the company's infrastructure for inevitable fire danger.

"They're in bankruptcy because of their terrible management, going back decades," Newsom said. "It's time for them to do the right thing — get out of bankruptcy and get this system into the 21st century."

Not everyone was venting Wednesday.

Lake County lost power in the early morning, in such widespread fashion that Sheriff Brian Martin said he thought it was "virtually our entire county that is shut off."

Unlike in earlier power outages,

PG&E is working closely with the county to locate residents with sensitive medical needs who may rely on power to survive. Hospitals, county court houses, local government offices and traffic signals are operating off generators.

"It's having a significant impact on us as a community up here," Martin said. "I think we're as prepared as we can be."

Luna and McGreevy reported from Northern California; La Ganga and Serna from Los Angeles. Times staff writers John Myers, Anita Chabria, Melody Gutierrez, Maura Dolan and Phil Willon in Northern California and Hannah Fry, Jaclyn Cosgrove, James Peltz, Richard Winton, Colleen Shalby, Liam Dillon and Alejandra Reyes-Velarde in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Do California power shutoffs work? Hard to know, experts say .
Millions of Californians spent part of the week in the dark in an unprecedented effort by the state's large electrical utilities to prevent another devastating wildfire. It was the fifth time Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has pre-emptively cut the power but by far the largest to date in the utility's effort to prevent a deadly wildfire sparked by its power lines. But do the power shut-offs actually prevent fires?Experts say it's hard to know what might have happened had the power stayed on, or if the utility's proactive shutoffs are to thank for California's mild fire season this year.

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