Pacific Gas and Electric, a major power company in California, has shut off power to nearly a million customers in the Bay Area, as well as San Jose, Oakland and numerous other cities in the northern part of the state. The intentional outage comes as strong winds and dry conditions have stoked concerns of looming wildfires.
When Did the Outages in California Begin?
The intentional power outages started at midnight the morning of Wednesday, October 9. The customers affected in the first phase of the outages impacted roughly half a million customers, according to Pacific Gas and Electric. The second phase is expected to start around noon on that same day, which will affect a further 230,000 customers.
A third phase, finally, will be rolled out based on considerations of the conditions at the time. The third phase would impact roughly 40,000 more customers in California.
Why is the Power Being Cut Intentionally?
These power outages are to prepare for the coming high winds. Due to the dry, hot conditions in California, there are fears that high winds could knock down power lines and then cause a spark in dry underbrush that starts a major wildfire.
Once a wildfire is burning, the high winds become even more dangerous. Flames can spread more quickly along dehydrated vegetation, and, with strong winds pushing them about, they can move even more rapidly to cover ground. The extra oxygen supply from the fast-moving wind could also help the blazes grow much hotter much more quickly.
The Real-Life Impact of Power Outages
Hospitals and other buildings that require power have backup generators on standby for the outages. Millions in the Bay Area could be affected by these intentional outages, and residents were urged to stockpile supplies they may need. Those who have medical needs that require electricity were urged to call for help if they need it.
Residents of Paradise, California, who are also affected by this outage, find some grim irony in the situation. Their town was already nearly burned to the ground last year by the Camp Fire. However, at that time, Pacific Gas and Energy had no intention of turning off the power. For the residents of Paradise, this measure seems like too little, too late.