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New Blackouts Darken California

The Wall Street Journal

PG&E Corp. said late Monday it started cutting power in parts of Northern California to reduce wildfire risks, a day after the state narrowly averted rolling blackouts to relieve strain on its electric grid during a heat wave.

The San Francisco-based utility, which serves 16 million people in Northern and Central California, said the outages will affect about 172,000 customers in 22 counties, stretching from wine country to the Sierra foothills. “PG&E will be able to use temporary generation and islanding to enable about 69,000 customers and several medical facilities to stay energized,” the company said.

The exact number of people potentially affected is uncertain but would likely top more than 500,000, based on census data on people per household in California.

PG&E said the progressive shutoffs started about 9 p.m. Monday in some areas. The company said the decision was based on forecasts of widespread, severely dry conditions and strong, gusty winds that create critical fire weather with high ignition risk. The outages could last through Wednesday in all affected areas.

California utilities in recent years have resorted to public safety power shutoffs in which they cut off electricity to certain areas to reduce the risk of their power lines sparking wildfires when wind speeds pick up.

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