This article is from the source 'guardian' and was first published or seen on . The next check for changes will be

You can find the current article at its original source at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/oct/09/california-power-outage-shutoff-wildfires

The article has changed 6 times. There is an RSS feed of changes available.

Version 4 Version 5
Northern Californians face days of power shutoffs amid high wildfire threat Northern Californians face days of power shutoffs amid high wildfire threat
(about 1 hour later)
Schools are closed. Traffic lights down. Tunnels dark. Businesses unopened. Hospitals running on generators.Schools are closed. Traffic lights down. Tunnels dark. Businesses unopened. Hospitals running on generators.
Much of northern California is facing life without electricity or gas for as many as five to seven days, after the country’s largest utility company cut power to an unprecedented swath of the state as a preventive measure against wildfires.Much of northern California is facing life without electricity or gas for as many as five to seven days, after the country’s largest utility company cut power to an unprecedented swath of the state as a preventive measure against wildfires.
The preventive power shutoffs by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) may affect up to 2.5m people by the end of the week. The first wave of shutoffs began on Wednesday to portions of 20 of the state’s 58 counties. PG&E is expected to shut off power to 10 more later in the day. The power shutoffs by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) may affect up to 2.5 million people by the end of the week. The first wave of shutoffs began on Wednesday to portions of 20 of the state’s 58 counties. PG&E was expected to shut off power to 10 more later in the day.
Long lines at gas stations across the #BayArea ahead of the expected #poweroutage. More than 800k homes and businesses expected to lose power in next 24 hours. Could take 5-7 days to restore. @PGE4Me says shut off will to reduce fire danger. https://t.co/BdH5MCw2GB pic.twitter.com/qiPJpqoRKFLong lines at gas stations across the #BayArea ahead of the expected #poweroutage. More than 800k homes and businesses expected to lose power in next 24 hours. Could take 5-7 days to restore. @PGE4Me says shut off will to reduce fire danger. https://t.co/BdH5MCw2GB pic.twitter.com/qiPJpqoRKF
Santa Clara county, the home of Silicon Valley, declared a local emergency on Wednesday afternoon in hopes of spurring California to declare a state of emergency.Santa Clara county, the home of Silicon Valley, declared a local emergency on Wednesday afternoon in hopes of spurring California to declare a state of emergency.
“In Santa Clara county alone, 38,250 customers will be affected,” said Miguel Márquez, chief operating officer for the county. “Of those customers, 1,100 are what are called medical baseline customers that have special energy needs due to the medical equipment they have.”“In Santa Clara county alone, 38,250 customers will be affected,” said Miguel Márquez, chief operating officer for the county. “Of those customers, 1,100 are what are called medical baseline customers that have special energy needs due to the medical equipment they have.”
Swaths of wine country north of San Francisco, hit hard by wildfires in 2017 , sat in the dark for most of Wednesday, along with the region north of Sacramento devastated by the 2018 Camp fire.Swaths of wine country north of San Francisco, hit hard by wildfires in 2017 , sat in the dark for most of Wednesday, along with the region north of Sacramento devastated by the 2018 Camp fire.
The power shutoff zone stretched down the Sierra Nevada foothills and along the coast into the far north of the state, with large portions of the Bay Area set to turn off in the evening.The power shutoff zone stretched down the Sierra Nevada foothills and along the coast into the far north of the state, with large portions of the Bay Area set to turn off in the evening.
Schools were closed in cities across the region, and universities including the University of California, Berkeley, Sonoma State and Mills College canceled classes. On Wednesday morning, the UC Berkeley campus was quiet as a summer day. The campus police sergeant Nicolas Hernandez said the department had scheduled additional officers on patrol. “We’re just telling people to stay out of unlit areas and parking garages for safety,” he said.
The Alameda county department of environmental health issued an alert to restaurants and bars that “food facilities without power must be ‘closed’ for the safety of the employees and the public until power is restored”. With schools out, parents were scrambling to find last-minute childcare. Californians reliant on electronic medical devices scrambled to find alternative power sources – according to PG&E, 32,885 medical baseline customers live in the affected areas.The Alameda county department of environmental health issued an alert to restaurants and bars that “food facilities without power must be ‘closed’ for the safety of the employees and the public until power is restored”. With schools out, parents were scrambling to find last-minute childcare. Californians reliant on electronic medical devices scrambled to find alternative power sources – according to PG&E, 32,885 medical baseline customers live in the affected areas.
California’s transportation agency briefly considered closing a tunnel that sees about 160,000 vehicles a day, before finding the generators needed to keep it open. At least five traffic collisions involving injuries occurred at intersections without traffic lights in Santa Rosa.California’s transportation agency briefly considered closing a tunnel that sees about 160,000 vehicles a day, before finding the generators needed to keep it open. At least five traffic collisions involving injuries occurred at intersections without traffic lights in Santa Rosa.
The University of California, Berkeley, canceled classes, operating only “limited services” on the campus. On Wednesday morning, the campus was quiet as a on summer day. The UCB police sergeant Nicolas Hernandez said the department had scheduled additional officers on patrol. “We’re just telling people to stay out of unlit areas and parking garages for safety,” he said.
For some residents in the Oakland Hills, the impending shutoffs brought up memories of past disasters.For some residents in the Oakland Hills, the impending shutoffs brought up memories of past disasters.
Shirley Vezilich was living at the same location in 1991 when a wildfire ripped through the neighborhood, killing 25 people and injuring 150 others. “It happened suddenly,” Vezilich said outside her home. “I’d gotten back from church and everything was quiet. Suddenly there were helicopters flying overhead saying, ‘evacuate, evacuate’.”Shirley Vezilich was living at the same location in 1991 when a wildfire ripped through the neighborhood, killing 25 people and injuring 150 others. “It happened suddenly,” Vezilich said outside her home. “I’d gotten back from church and everything was quiet. Suddenly there were helicopters flying overhead saying, ‘evacuate, evacuate’.”
Vezilich, who rebuilt her house on the same property, was one of the first residents to return to the neighborhood after the fire. Today she makes sure to watch the vegetation on her lot, trimming for the overgrowth and dead weeds that create fire hazards.Vezilich, who rebuilt her house on the same property, was one of the first residents to return to the neighborhood after the fire. Today she makes sure to watch the vegetation on her lot, trimming for the overgrowth and dead weeds that create fire hazards.
Across the street, Vezilich’s neighbor, Ethan Jones, said he wasn’t too worried about fires. Jones works with software and moved into the neighborhood well after the 1991 wildfire. Across the street, Vezilich’s neighbor Ethan Jones said he wasn’t too worried about fires. Jones works with software and moved into the neighborhood well after the 1991 wildfire.
“We have two babies so we have a soft go-plan. But we haven’t really thought of it too much,” Jones said.“We have two babies so we have a soft go-plan. But we haven’t really thought of it too much,” Jones said.
The new normalThe new normal
PG&E has a 70,000 square-mile service area, and services more than a third of the state. The utility declared bankruptcy in January, in part because of potential liabilities from its role in some of the 2017 northern California fires and the 2018 Camp fire. PG&E has a 70,000 square-mile service area, and serves more than a third of the state. The utility declared bankruptcy in January, in part because of potential liabilities from its role in some of the 2017 fires and the Camp fire.
PG&E began practicing preventive shutoffs this year during red flag fire weather conditions – high winds and low humidity – after investigators found it at fault in two of the deadliest wildfires in California’s history in the past two years. PG&E began practicing preventive shutoffs this year during red flag fire weather conditions – high winds and low humidity – after investigators found it at fault in two of the deadliest wildfires in California’s history, both within the past two years.
Some of the wildfires started because of trees falling on power lines – trees that should have been cleared by PG&E because of their proximity to the lines. In the 2018 Camp fire, which killed 85, the utility’s outdated infrastructure was implicated.Some of the wildfires started because of trees falling on power lines – trees that should have been cleared by PG&E because of their proximity to the lines. In the 2018 Camp fire, which killed 85, the utility’s outdated infrastructure was implicated.
Record power shutoffs in California are set to become the new normalRecord power shutoffs in California are set to become the new normal
Amid warm temperatures and strong winds, major shutoffs are expected to become a staple in a state gripped by the climate crisis.Amid warm temperatures and strong winds, major shutoffs are expected to become a staple in a state gripped by the climate crisis.
“I wish we weren’t in a situation where, in maybe one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the world, we are turning power off to large swaths of the population every few weeks,” Michael Wara, director of the climate and energy policy program at Stanford University, said on Tuesday. “But it is better than what we’ve been through, and I very much hope that we get through this fire season without a repeat of 2017 or 2018.”“I wish we weren’t in a situation where, in maybe one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the world, we are turning power off to large swaths of the population every few weeks,” Michael Wara, director of the climate and energy policy program at Stanford University, said on Tuesday. “But it is better than what we’ve been through, and I very much hope that we get through this fire season without a repeat of 2017 or 2018.”
Steve Anderson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said those anticipating high winds would not be disappointed.
“To everyone asking, ‘Where’s the wind? Where’s the wind?’ Don’t worry, the wind is coming,” Anderson said. “Obviously PG&E doesn’t want to cut the power when there’s already strong winds. You want to cut the power before it happens.”
Gusts of 35-45 mph (56-72 kph) were forecast to sweep from the San Francisco Bay Area to the agricultural Central Valley.
To the south, Southern California Edison was considering shutting off power for nearly 174,000 customers in nine counties as Santa Ana winds were predicted Thursday. San Diego Gas & Electric has notified about 30,000 customers they could lose power in backcountry areas.
Many in the state, including policymakers, complain that the outages shift the cost of prevention to the consumer, including some of the region’s most vulnerable.Many in the state, including policymakers, complain that the outages shift the cost of prevention to the consumer, including some of the region’s most vulnerable.
“We obviously value human life and we will assume that this is necessary to avoid devastating fires and to preserve life,” said Libby Schaaf, mayor of Oakland, which is set to be affected by the shutoffs. “This is an evolving world where these extreme weather conditions that we see from climate change are happening and we have got to adjust.”“We obviously value human life and we will assume that this is necessary to avoid devastating fires and to preserve life,” said Libby Schaaf, mayor of Oakland, which is set to be affected by the shutoffs. “This is an evolving world where these extreme weather conditions that we see from climate change are happening and we have got to adjust.”
But, Schaaf noted, “these types of interruptions are not acceptable”.But, Schaaf noted, “these types of interruptions are not acceptable”.
“This is a type of interruption to our lives that should not happen,” she said. “We should have systems that don’t require a power outage, particularly for five days.”“This is a type of interruption to our lives that should not happen,” she said. “We should have systems that don’t require a power outage, particularly for five days.”
“This puts all the burden on the customer,” echoed Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for the Utility Reform Network. “The customer has to figure out how to remain safe during the outage. If they’re a business, they have to figure out how to deal with whatever losses may occur. It’s all on the customer to deal with the inconvenience and the problems created.“This puts all the burden on the customer,” echoed Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for the Utility Reform Network. “The customer has to figure out how to remain safe during the outage. If they’re a business, they have to figure out how to deal with whatever losses may occur. It’s all on the customer to deal with the inconvenience and the problems created.
She continued: “The whole reason that this is supposed to be a regulated industry is that electricity is essential. It’s a necessity of modern life.”She continued: “The whole reason that this is supposed to be a regulated industry is that electricity is essential. It’s a necessity of modern life.”
An eerie anniversaryAn eerie anniversary
In Sonoma county, where the Tubbs fire ripped through in 2017, killing 44 and destroying thousands of homes, the shutoff added a layer of surreality to the second anniversary of the devastation.In Sonoma county, where the Tubbs fire ripped through in 2017, killing 44 and destroying thousands of homes, the shutoff added a layer of surreality to the second anniversary of the devastation.
“There were lines down the street for the gas station,” said Lisa Frazee, who lost her Santa Rosa home in the fire. “The grocery stores were packed, and Office Depot and Staples and all those places that have power packs for phones and computers, it was just a scramble.”“There were lines down the street for the gas station,” said Lisa Frazee, who lost her Santa Rosa home in the fire. “The grocery stores were packed, and Office Depot and Staples and all those places that have power packs for phones and computers, it was just a scramble.”
Frazee, a teacher who did not lose power in her new home in Windsor, spent the day helping parents whose kids had school canceled. She felt that PG&E had bungled the entire operation, with the website going down because of too much traffic and poor communication. “We went to bed last night thinking we weren’t supposed to have power, and then we woke up having power,” she said.Frazee, a teacher who did not lose power in her new home in Windsor, spent the day helping parents whose kids had school canceled. She felt that PG&E had bungled the entire operation, with the website going down because of too much traffic and poor communication. “We went to bed last night thinking we weren’t supposed to have power, and then we woke up having power,” she said.
In a region still traumatized from the fires, a poorly handled operation was the last thing residents needed. Frazee was chatting with the parent of a girl who lost her home in the flames, and at the mention of a PG&E map and the wind, “the little girl just started trembling”, she said.In a region still traumatized from the fires, a poorly handled operation was the last thing residents needed. Frazee was chatting with the parent of a girl who lost her home in the flames, and at the mention of a PG&E map and the wind, “the little girl just started trembling”, she said.
“I said, ‘What’s going on, honey?’ And she said, ‘I’m really nervous. I don’t like wind. The wind made the fire burn my house down,’” Frazee said.“I said, ‘What’s going on, honey?’ And she said, ‘I’m really nervous. I don’t like wind. The wind made the fire burn my house down,’” Frazee said.
Janet Leisen, who lost three barns and two houses in the fire, described the whole experience as “very weird”. “I’m sitting here at the feed store downtown and it’s fine,” she said. “But my house is out. But the coffee shop has power. I just went to the local grocery store and they have power.”Janet Leisen, who lost three barns and two houses in the fire, described the whole experience as “very weird”. “I’m sitting here at the feed store downtown and it’s fine,” she said. “But my house is out. But the coffee shop has power. I just went to the local grocery store and they have power.”
Like many in the region, Leisen doesn’t care much for PG&E, believing that “they haven’t been about improving their grid or doing anything other than to help their bottom line”. She understands why the power shutoffs have to happen, but said that the utility could have done more to maintain and improve its infrastructure. Like many in the region, Leisen doesn’t care much for PG&E, believing that “they haven’t been about improving their grid or doing anything other than to help their bottom line”. She understands why the power shutoffs have to happen but said that the utility could have done more to maintain and improve its infrastructure.
“I would have liked it better if they did it before we burned down and they killed 130 people,” she said. “But if that’s what they have to do right now, then that’s what they have to do.”“I would have liked it better if they did it before we burned down and they killed 130 people,” she said. “But if that’s what they have to do right now, then that’s what they have to do.”
Mario Koran contributed reportingMario Koran contributed reporting
CaliforniaCalifornia
WildfiresWildfires
Natural disasters and extreme weatherNatural disasters and extreme weather
newsnews
Share on FacebookShare on Facebook
Share on TwitterShare on Twitter
Share via EmailShare via Email
Share on LinkedInShare on LinkedIn
Share on PinterestShare on Pinterest
Share on WhatsAppShare on WhatsApp
Share on MessengerShare on Messenger
Reuse this contentReuse this content