(TNS) - In a historic move to avert another fiery disaster, PG&E is turning off power to as many as 800,000 customers in Northern and Central California Wednesday, prompting residents, schools, businesses and local officials to make hurried plans to cope without electricity possibly for several days.
With wind speeds expected between 40 mph and 70 mph over sunbaked land Wednesday and Thursday, the state’s largest utility opted to preemptively cut power in parts of 34 counties, including Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties in the North Bay.
PG&E, driven into bankruptcy in January facing about $30 billion in liabilities for the 2017 wildfires, adopted temporary power shut-offs as a key part of its wildfire prevention plan. A majority of those catastrophic blazes were attributed to the company’s equipment.
About 66,000 of the utility’s Sonoma County customers will lose power, which equates to about 262,000 residents. Of that total, there will be 24,000 Santa Rosa customers affected, including an estimated 72,000 residents, a city official said Tuesday.
With many customer accounts serving more than one person, the planned outage could affect well over 1 million people. PG&E plans to cut the power in two stages, the first early Wednesday morning before sunrise and the second between noon and 5 p.m.