The state of California was thrown into a frenzy as Pacific Gas & Electric, a major utility company there, cut power for 500,000 customers. The move was a precaution to prevent electrical equipment from sparking wildfires as the West Coast experiences heavy winds.
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Meteorologist Hannah Chandler-Cooley of the National Weather Service said a strong weather system around the Great Basin was causing high gusts in northern California.
“Northerly winds, first and foremost, really dry out the area,” she told the New York Times, adding that trees toppling on power lines is a possible outcome of the extreme weather.
Winds could hit 30 miles per hour and gusts could reach 45 miles per hour or more.
PG&E has already cut power for hundreds of thousands of customers and will intermittently continue to do so as the weather progresses. More than half of California counties are expected to be affected.
In all, about 2.5 million people will be temporarily without electricity.
In some areas, like Berkeley, stores ran out of generators and classes at the university were canceled. In Santa Rosa, authorities reported multiple traffic collisions at intersections without power. Officials in Santa Clara County declared a local state of emergency.
“A lot of things are happening — all converging at once,” said Michael Jones, founder and senior energy consultant of California Energy Advisers, a solar energy firm in Los Angeles. “You have a very old grid — about 127 years old — which needs constant upgrading.”
Jones told FOX Business that whether one believes in climate change or not, the effects are showing up in California: "We are seeing consistent wildfires that have caused a number of blackouts and, of course, this is putting more weight on the grid."
With power outages across the state, several agencies have called for common-sense safety practices, like treating downed streetlights as stop signs. Jones has an eye on the future: “I see a need for people to go green,” use solars panel and work to get off the grid.
“There's no way around it anymore,” he said. Aside from solar power, going green can include installing energy-efficient windows, "heating and air conditioning, cool paint, water systems — everything you can put in a house so it produces more energy than it uses.”
For now, though, those impacted by the outages can check in with PG&E for updates.
PG&E was found responsible for dozens of wildfires in the past few years, including one in the town of Paradise last November that killed 86 people. Senior Vice President of Electric Operations, Michael Lewis, said in a press statement that “the safety of our customers and the communities we serve is our most important responsibility, which is why PG&E has decided to turn the 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.”
The company expects to start turning the power back on Thursday.