Second Round of Blackouts Begin in California, With More on Horizon

Date : 10/23/2019 @ 7:23PM
Source : Dow Jones News
Stock : Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PCG)
Quote : 6.92  0.0 (0.00%) @ 11:47AM

Second Round of Blackouts Begin in California, With More on Horizon

Pacific Gas and Electric (NYSE:PCG)
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By Jim Carlton 

SAN FRANCISCO -- PG&E Corp. said it would begin shutting off power to 179,000 customers in 17 California counties on Wednesday afternoon, its second major intentional blackout this month meant to head off potential wildfires.

The shut-offs were expected to begin at 2 p.m. local time in the Sierra Nevada foothills and 3 p.m. in some counties north of San Francisco. More are planned for 1 a.m. Thursday in parts of San Mateo County, between San Francisco and San Jose, and Kern County, in the southern part of the state's Central Valley.

The bankrupt utility cuts power when high winds that could knock down power lines and spark wildfires are predicted. The winds forecast for Wednesday and Thursday are milder than those earlier this month that forced the utility to unplug 750,000 homes and businesses for as long as four days.

As a result, this week's blackouts are expected to last a shorter amount of time, with Northern California counties potentially getting power back midday Thursday and Kern County on Friday.

Blackouts could hit Southern California starting Thursday as well. Officials at Southern California Edison officials said they were considering shut-offs to 163,000 customers Los Angeles. Affected counties include Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino.

And PG&E said more blackouts could be on the horizon for a larger number of its customers as soon as this weekend, when stronger winds are forecast.

At a press briefing late Tuesday, PG&E officials said they would try to make this week's shut-offs less disruptive than the last mass outage in which the utility was widely criticized for poor communication with customers and local officials.

PG&E Chief Executive Bill Johnson said steps had been taken to hopefully address most of the concerns. The company's website, which repeatedly crashed during the last shut-offs, has been shored up to withstand heavy traffic, he said.

As of late Wednesday morning, it was working.

Mr. Johnson said PG&E's goal was to prevent the kind of catastrophic wildfires its equipment has been found responsible for, including the Camp Fire last year which killed 85 people and leveled much of Paradise, Calif. Paradise and its surrounding Butte County are included in the latest round of shut-offs, as they were earlier this month.

"Our sole intent is to prevent catastrophic wild fires sparked by electric equipment in the conditions we find ourselves in," Mr. Johnson told reporters at the briefing at PG&E's San Francisco headquarters.

Mr. Johnson added his company has accepted an offer from Gov. Gavin Newsom to call on state resources for help, including top state emergency officials who are working with the utility on managing the outages.

Asked about to a call by the Democratic governor for his company to reimburse customers for losses they sustained during the last shut-off, Mr. Johnson said he hasn't yet had time to review that.

Local officials in communities targeted fort the shut-offs began making plans to handle the expected disruptions, especially to traffic. Officials in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, issued an advisory that multiple intersections would be without power during the afternoon rush-hour commute in cities including Santa Rosa and that stops signs were being deployed at the busiest ones to help facilitate traffic.

Write to Jim Carlton at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 23, 2019 15:08 ET (19:08 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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