California winds move south, may force new power outages

A customer shops for groceries at La Tapatia Market during a blackout in Napa California on Oct 9 2019

Patrons sit at candle-lit tables at Reel and Brand in Sonoma, California, on October 9, 2019, during a planned power outage by the Pacific Gas & Electric utility company.

But some 600,000 customers are still without electricity. "So I'm just trying to make sure we have water, food, charging stations and gas".

"It's devastating beyond words", Newsom said.

"This is unprecedented in terms of what all of us are facing as a community", PG&E Vice President Sumeet Singh said at a media briefing Tuesday night.

The day began with hundreds of thousands of Californians in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Foothills and Humboldt County waking up without electricity. There are now some 400 firefighters fighting to contain it.

The California Highway Patrol shutdown portions of US 210, and local media reported that a number of motorists were stuck on the interstate highway because of the fire.

A helicopter and more than 200 firefighters were fighting the flames, the department said on its website, adding that 74 buildings had been destroyed.

Transmission lines operated by PG&E have been linked to wildfires that have decimated several California communities.

The majority of the county's populated west end was plunged into darkness when PG&E instituted its deliberative outage for high fire danger just after midnight Wednesday.

Around the same time, the Woolsey Fire engulfed a section of southern California, torching 96,949 acres and forcing some 295,000 people from their homes.

The Mendocino Complex fire to the north began in late July with the Ranch Fire that later converged with the separate River Fire.

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In the midst of confusion and frustration over the outages, there had been some positive news for PG&E customers. The affected areas remained under evacuation warnings on Friday morning.

The fire started along the northern portion of the San Fernando Valley, reported USA Today.

PG&E CEO Bill Johnson didn't respond to Newsom's criticisms but promised if future wind events require similar shutoffs, the utility will "do better" when it comes to communicating with customers.

The outages have been hard for many residents, but particularly those with medical and health needs.

The shut-offs did not eliminate fires altogether: An overnight blaze in the blacked-out East Bay town of Moraga, population 16,000, prompted authorities to evacuate an upscale development of about 100 homes. It has burned at least 500 acres and was at least 10% contained. Evacuation orders were lifted hours later for about 50 homes. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

The Los Angeles Unified school district closed at least 15 schools and said bus service throughout the district would be delayed.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries from the latest blazes, among about 275 wildfires that have broken out across California as hot, gusty winds signaled the start of its peak fire season, state officials said. It was 60% contained.

For the 800,000 or so residents impacted, solar power could have provided a huge relief but unfortunately won't.

The utility it was able to restore power after winds subsided and workers could inspect its power lines.

For days, California utility companies have been preemptively cutting off power out of fear that high wind gusts could blow power lines into trees, sparking risky fires.

PG&E cast the blackouts as a matter of public safety, aimed at preventing the kind of blazes that have killed scores of people over the past couple of years, destroyed thousands of homes, and ran up tens of billions of dollars in claims that drove the company into bankruptcy.

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