(TNS) — Classes were canceled. Frozen foods melted. Hospitals switched to emergency generators. Blooms withered in florists’ coolers. Unused food was jettisoned at shuttered restaurants. Lines formed at gas stations. Cellphones faded out.
That’s what happened Wednesday when the state’s largest utility shut off power to millions of Californians in a drastic attempt to avoid the killer wildfires that have charred hundreds of thousands of acres, caused billions of dollars in damage and spurred cries for widespread change in how electricity is delivered over the state’s aging grid.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. began cutting power to customers shortly after midnight in counties around Sacramento. By the end of the day, the outages had radiated out to encompass 34 counties, with all but seven counties north of Merced at least partly in the dark.
About 800,000 customers were expected to lose power Wednesday, leaving more than 2 million people without lights, air conditioning, computers and refrigerators. Gusty conditions are expected through Thursday morning, and PG&E fears windblown electrical lines could spark fires if power is not cut.