The winds were blowing and the lights were out across broad swaths of San Francisco as the sun rose Wednesday morning. And other parts of the state will be experiencing the same conditions before the end of the day.
Pacific Gas & Energy has begun shutting off the power of an unprecedented 800,000 customers across 34 counties in California as the winds kick up across the state. The power company is hoping to avoid wildfires caused by damaged power equipment, which was cited as the cause of last year’s Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise, Calif. and impacted broad swaths of Napa and Sonoma.
Shutdowns began around midnight in Napa, Solano, Sonoma and Marin Counties, hitting wine country and parts of the Bay area. All totaled, some 278,000 meters are expected to be turned off in that region.
That’s going to result in hundreds of thousands (and likely millions) of dollars in losses to residents (as food spoils) and businesses. October is also a peak tourist season in Napa and Sonoma as vineyards harvest their crops. And Santa Clara county, home of Apple, Google and other Silicon Valley giants, should see power cuts starting at noon Wednesday.
Right now, though, there’s no procedure in place for those people and companies to recoup the financial losses. PG&E is currently operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which it filed for after a flood of damage lawsuits from wildfires the past two years.
This is the third shutdown in the last two months. The previous was restored within a day for those, but the number of outages was significantly lower. PG&E officials warn it could take up to 48 hours to restore the power this time once the winds die down – and are advising customers to be prepared for outages lasting several days.
PG&E’s not the only power company thinking about turning things off. Southern California Edison says it’s considering a shutdown that would affect customers in Los Angeles and surrounding counties. That could impact another 106,000 customers.
How widespread is the California power outage?
While the shutdowns are still taking place, here’s how many customers could be impacted in the Bay area, as of Wednesday morning. (A complete list of PG&E outages can be found on the utility’s Website)
- Alameda County (cities include Oakland, San Leando) – 32,613 customers
- Contra Costa County (cities include San Ramon, Walnut Creek, Berkeley) – 40,219 customers
- Sonoma County (cities include Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Kenwood) – 66,289 customers
- Napa County (cities include Napa, Calistoga, Deer Park) – 32,124 customers
- San Mateo County (cities include Menlo Park, San Mateo, Half Moon Bay) – 14,766 customers
- Santa Clara County (cities include Cupertino, San Jose, Morgan Hill, Palo Alto, Saratoga, Los Altos) – 38,123 customers
- Solano County (cities include Fairfield, Vallejo) – 32,862 customers
- Mendocino County (cities include Redwood Valley, Fort Bragg) – 38,123 customers
- Santa Cruz County (cities include Los Gatos, Saratoga, Bonny Doon) – 32,017 customers
- Marin County (cities include Sausalito, Fairfax, Stinson Beach) – Fewer than 10,000 customers
The latest map of PG&E’s power shutdown areas: