The nation's largest utility warned customers on Monday it may have to cut power to portions of 21 counties in Northern California due to the region expected to see strong winds and high temperatures that may lead to wildfires.
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Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) said there's an increasing risk that a Diablo wind event may necessitate a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) starting on Wednesday, as "high fire-risk" conditions arrive.
"Hot and dry conditions combined with expected high wind gusts pose an increased risk for damage to the electric system that has the potential to ignite fires in areas with dry vegetation," the utility said.
Roughly 50,000 PG&E customers could see their power shut off as early as Wednesday afternoon.
The utility says the 21 counties, which include those in the northern Sierra foothills and the mid and higher elevations of the Sierra, include: Alameda, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Lake, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Tehama, and Yuba.
"High fire-risk conditions are expected to arrive Wednesday evening," the utility said. "High winds are currently expected to subside Thursday morning in some locations and Friday morning in other locations."
If the PSPS goes into effect, its goal is to restore power to most customers within 12 daylight hours, based on weather conditions.
The National Weather Service (NWS) said that fire weather watch has been issued for the North Bay Mountains, East Bay Hills, and Santa Cruz Mountains starting at 5 a.m. on Wednesday through early Friday.
Dry conditions and gusty winds at 45 to 50 mph at higher elevations could lead to wildfire spread.
PG&E said it doesn't expect to have this potential PSPS impact the Bay Area.
The Public Safety Power Shutoff programs used by PG&E and other utilities have been developed in response to disasters.
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PG&E recently emerged from bankruptcy stemming from financial fallout from several devastating wildfires caused by its utility equipment that killed more than 100 people and destroyed more than 27,000 homes and other buildings in 2017 and 2018.
The possible next shutoff comes as investigators in California probing the cause of another wildfire that killed four people have taken possession of equipment belonging to PG&E.
In a filing with the California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E said Friday investigators with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) have taken some of its equipment as part of the ongoing investigation into the Zogg Fire.