PG&E cut power to nearly 2 million Californians to prevent wild fires and people are upset

PG&E cut power to nearly 2 million Californians to prevent wild fires and people are upset

I haven’t seen a poll on the reaction to this preventative power cut yet, but clearly some people are really upset about it. A PG&E office was egged and someone shot at one of the company’s trucks:

In Santa Rosa, the Valero gas station Manager Angel Ramos didn’t get why the power was cut when there were no strong winds in the city on Wednesday afternoon.

“I think it’s bullcrap, we’re going to be losing money,” she told KGO-TV. “We’ve got stuff that’s going to go bad now that we’re going to have to transfer to another store.”

Some of that anger has already fueled at least two incidents that appear to be directed at the utility company. A PG&E office in Oroville was closed Wednesday after an act of vandalism after someone threw eggs at the front doors.

Further north, the California Highway Patrol said it was investigating after a PG&E vehicle was shot at on Interstate 5 in Colusa County Tuesday night after the power shutoffs were announced. The PG&E employee told officers he was driving in a marked company vehicle north of the Maxwell Rest Area around 7:48 p.m. when a white pickup truck pulled up next to him, according to KTVU.

The driver heard a gunshot and his window shattered. Here are photos of the damage to the truck:

In San Francisco, the company put up barricades as if expecting protesters:

The big question now is how long the outage will last. PG&E has previously said that once the winds subside it could take several days for crews to inspect all of the lines before they can safely be powered up again. Meanwhile, homes and businesses are either shuttered or working in the dark:

There are different figures circulating about how many people are impacted by all of this. PG&E put the number at 800,000 households yesterday but the Associated Press says that represents slightly less than 2 million people:

Gusts topping freeway speed raked the San Francisco Bay Area early Thursday after California’s biggest utility shut off electricity to nearly 2 million people for fear high winds in the forecast could bring down power lines and spark deadly wildfires.

I’ve seen other estimates as high as 2.5 million people but, whatever the exact number, no one disputes this is the largest preventative electricity cut in state history.

Yesterday, Jazz wrote about the impending power cuts and, as he said, there’s no mystery about why this is happening. PG&E failed to cut power under similar conditions last November. The result of that decision was the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California’s history. The Camp Fire killed 85 people and burned more than 18,000 structures. Here’s an LA Times story on the decision not to cut power from last November:

On Oct. 14, the company cautiously shut off power to some 60,000 Sierra foothills and North Bay customers, hoping to prevent any downed power lines from sparking a fire. On Nov. 6, PG&E again began warning 70,000 customers — including those in the town of Paradise — that it might flip the switch in the face of fire danger.

But for reasons that remain unclear, the utility decided not to shut off power that day.

PG&E was eventually found responsible for the Camp Fire and declared bankruptcy earlier this year. Last month the utility reached an $11 billion settlement with victims and insurance companies. And that was just one of nearly two dozen wildfires the company has been judged responsible for in the past few years.

The utility is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. As much as I sympathize with people who suddenly find themselves living in the 19th century (and knowing I could be joining them if wind conditions in southern California worsen) it was less than a year ago that we learned things could be much, much worse if the power was left on in these conditions.

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