PG&E to cut power to 450,000 people in California

PG&E is cutting power to 179,000 customers -- affecting about 450,000 people -- starting Wednesday.

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This "public safety" power shutoff to avert possible wildfires in northern California -- which will likely last for approximately two days, according to the agency -- is going to impact parts of 17 counties in the state, mostly in the Sierra foothills and north of the San Francisco Bay Area. The specific counties expected to be affected by the outage are: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Kern, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Mateo, Sierra, Sonoma, Tehama and Yuba.

"The shutoffs are expected to begin around 2 p.m. in the Sierra Foothills, 3 p.m. in the North Bay counties, and approximately 1 a.m. Thursday in affected areas of San Mateo and Kern counties," PG&E said in a statement.

The beleaguered utility has faced fierce criticism from both residents and government officials for how it handled a previous public safety outage that occurred almost two weeks ago in northern and central California, where power was turned off to an estimated 2 million people to avoid causing potential wildfires. The prior blackout was a serious disruption to people's day-to-day life, as schools and colleges had to cancel classes and lots of businesses had to close.

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PG&E is shutting off the power because it is concerned that gusty winds could cause damage and down power lines, and mixed with hot dry weather, could ignite wildfires.

"The sole intent of a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) is to prevent a catastrophic wildfire sparked by electrical equipment during extreme weather events," the company said in a press release.

Beyond PG&E's shut off, Southern California Edison says it could also cut power Thursday to more than 160,000 customers in six counties and San Diego Gas & Electric is warning of power shutoffs to about 24,000 customers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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