Rolling blackouts sweep through Northern California, could hit southern part of state

Rolling blackouts sweep through Northern California, could hit southern part of state
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Utility-staged power outages designed to prevent wildfires have swept across California amid strong dry winds.

The Associated Press reports that the blackouts — facilitated by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) — have affected nearly half a million people from the Sierra foothills to parts of the San Francisco Bay Area. 

According to the news source, PG&E began this round of outages Wednesday and warned customers that another round of blackouts could occur as early as Saturday due to another forecast of strong winds. The company said that the current round of outages would last roughly 48 hours.

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While inconvenient, forced power outages are seen as industry best practice in California where wildfires are extremely destructive annually.

The blackouts are usually initiated when winds are forecasted to gust over 60 mph, which can cause tree limbs to be blown into power lines and spark wildfires, the AP says. 

“We understand the hardship caused by these shutoffs,” PG&E CEO Bill JohnsonWilliam (Bill) Leslie JohnsonPG&E announces .5B settlement for Northern California wildfires California prepares for biggest blackout yet Largest California utility reports broken power line near wildfire origin MORE told the AP Wednesday.

“But we also understand the heartbreak and devastation caused by catastrophic wildfires.”

Despite the outages, a wildfire in Sonoma County, just north of San Francisco, has reportedly grown to 15 square miles and has forced residents to evacuate. 

Additionally, infamous Santa Ana winds are expected to hit Southern California on Thursday. Power company Southern California Edison has reportedly estimated that as many as 308,000 customers, or 750,000 people, could lose power, depending on the forecast. 

All of this comes after PG&E shut off power to nearly 2 million people in northern and central California two weeks ago due to the threat of strong winds.