Scheduled power outages in Northern California begin

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

At midnight local time (0700 UTC), United States public utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) began turning off electricity for customers in the San Francisco area of California. PG&E stated it scheduled the blackouts in response to forecasts for high winds amid dry conditions. The aim is to reduce the risk of wildfires. Nearly 800 thousand customers were scheduled to be affected by the shutoffs which were expected to last through at least midday tomorrow.

Logo of Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Within the first four hours 185 thousand customers were without power. According to PG&E's schedule, by noon today over half a million could be affected, at which point phase two was planned to begin. Phase two was planned to affect over two hundred thousand customers. A phase three was tentatively planned, but final decisions were not yet made.

PG&E announced the schedule in a press release late yesterday and followed it up with a press conference last night. Sumeet Singh, a vice president at PG&E, said "We very much understand the inconvenience and difficulties such a power outage would cause". Company meteorologist Evan Duffey said, "This is forecast to be the strongest offshore wind event since October 2017".

Senior vice president Michael Lewis added, "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. 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".

According to local news, school districts across the area announced school closings. PG&E announced via Twitter around 11:30 am (1830 UTC), phase one had been completed. The company apologized for its website being inaccessible due to high volume of traffic.