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Californians Face Year’s Biggest Power Shutoffs on Fire Risk
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Winds Send California Fire Risk Soaring, Forcing Blackouts
(Bloomberg) -- Violent winds are rattling Northern California, sending the risk of wildfires soaring and prompting the state’s largest utility to cut power to prevent live wires from toppling into dry brush and sparking blazes.PG&E Corp. has cut electricity to 225,000 homes and businesses in areas north of San Francisco earlier on Sunday and will turn off power to an additional 136,000 in areas including the East Bay and South Bay in the evening, impacting an estimated 1.1 million people as gusts exceeding 50 miles (80 kilometers) an hour swept through an area already bone-dry from heat and drought. Utilities in Southern California warned they may need to cut power, too.“This is the strongest event we have seen so far this year,” said Karleisa Rogacheski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento. It’s some of most dangerous weather the state has seen since the Camp Fire erupted in 2018, killing 85 people, she said.PG&E said it may restore power starting Monday afternoon, though some customers may be left in the dark through Tuesday. By mid-afternoon Sunday, at least three blazes had broken out north of Sacramento, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.The brutal winds, fires and blackouts are the latest blow for a state that’s been battered by violent weather and has already seen a record 4.1 million acres (1.66 million hectares) scorched this year. PG&E has previously cut power four times in 2020 to prevent falling wires from igniting blazes in a region that’s tinder dry from heat and drought. This round is the biggest yet as an estimated 4.2 million people are at risk from extreme fire conditions, according to the National Weather Service.The winds, fueled by a low pressure system in the Pacific Northwest, were gusting as high as 52 mph in Northern California at 10:30 a.m. local time. Gusts in canyons and atop ridges could hit 70 mph, just shy of hurricane strength.Fire fighters were battling three new blazes in Shasta County, including the Point Fire which had burned 275 acres and was 70% contained by about 6 p.m. Local time, Cal Fire said. The nearby Dersch Fire had burned at least 50 acres. Come Monday, humidity will be as low as 6% in Redding and just 5% in Grass Valley, according to the National Weather Service. It comes as the state is already riddled with dry brush and grasses due to some of the warmest temperatures record over the last nine months, according to the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Information.PG&E is cutting power in stages. It began at 10 a.m. local time Sunday in the Northern Sierra region and will continue through Monday evening, the company said. The outages will hit 36 counties that include the San Francisco Bay area, the Sierra Nevada foothills, the Central Valley and the Central Coast.The blackouts may hit densely populated parts of the San Francisco metropolitan area, including portions of Oakland, Berkeley and Marin County -- cutting power to many residents as they are working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. The city of Berkeley advised residents living in the hills to evacuate due to the fire risk, according to a statement.In Southern California, Edison International said about 75,000 customers could lose power beginning Monday. That’s about 225,000 people based on the size of the average California household. Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric Co. is considering about 21,000 outages.And Pacific Power, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said it could switch off power in Northern California and Southern Oregon on Sunday due to the gusts, according to a statement.Much of the U.S. West is at risk from wildfires as dry weather and stiff winds turn hillsides, forests and scrub land into tinderboxes. In Colorado, two of the largest fires in state history have forced the closure of Rocky Mountain National Park and triggered the evacuation of nearby towns.More than 8 million people across California will be in high-risk zones, including the cities of Sacramento, Stockton, and San Bernardino, the U.S. Storm Prediction Center said in its long-range forecast.The outages come on the heels of a blistering heat wave that gripped California earlier this month, driving temperatures to record daily highs. In August, a freak lightning storm sparked more than 150 wildfires in 24 hours. Days before that, the state’s grid operator ordered the first rotating outages since the Enron-era energy crisis of 2001 as scorching weather sent electricity demand surging.PG&E began resorting to preventative shutoffs after its equipment caused some of California’s worst blazes, forcing the company into bankruptcy last year. PG&E emerged from Chapter 11 in July after paying $25.5 billion to resolve fire claims.(Adds details of blackouts in second paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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Southern California Wildfire Explodes In Size as Winds Rage
(Bloomberg) -- California is grappling with yet another weather-driven disaster as a wildfire propelled by hurricane-force gusts more than doubled in size south of Los Angeles and forced 60,000 people to flee.The blaze, raging on the hills above Irvine, grew to 4,000 acres in just hours, becoming the largest and fastest-moving of more than two dozens fires that erupted as high winds swept the already bone-dry region. Two firefighters were critically injured as gusts topped 70 miles per hour, sending flames racing.“It’s a battle,” Orange County Fire Authority Captain Ed Gonzales said during a media briefing.The gusts and precariously-dry conditions make for some of the most dangerous weather the state has seen since the Camp Fire erupted in 2018, killing 85 people. They’re also the latest blow for a region that’s been battered by a succession of heat waves and wildfires that have burned a record 4.1 million acres this year.??Edison International, which owns the electric utility that serves Irvine, filed a report Monday with state regulators saying it appeared a wire attached to a telecommunications line may have come in contact with one of its power lines, possibly starting the fire. The cause remains under investigation, and the company is cooperating with authorities, a spokesman said.Edison shares fell 3.8% Monday.The blazes came even after Edison, PG&E Corp. and other utilities cut power in some areas to prevent live wires from falling into dry brush during the windstorms. PG&E, the state’s largest utility, imposed the most widespread outages, cutting power to 355,000 homes and businesses.Edison turned off power to about 21,000 customers. Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric Co. cut electricity to about 2,900. Both companies said additional power cuts could follow. High winds warnings are in effect for Southern California through Tuesday night.“This is the fire weather forecast I was hoping wouldn’t come to pass, given all that has already transpired in 2020,” climate scientist Daniel Swain tweeted before the power cuts.With winds raging, the Silverado fire near Irvine grew rapidly after erupting Monday, shutting roads and forcing nearby schools to evacuate. More than 500 firefighters are battling the blaze, said Orange County Fire Authority Captain Greg Barta. The injured firefighters suffered burns over 65% and 50% of their bodies, officials said at the briefing.Most of the two dozen or so fires that have erupted in California in recent days have been in the northern half of the state. Firefighters have managed to quickly bring nearly all of them under control.Climate change -- especially the impact on California -- has become one of the focal points of the upcoming election. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump granted the state’s request to declare a major disaster in seven counties hit by this year’s historic fire season, shortly after rejecting it. He has repeatedly blamed poor forest management for the fires.PG&E began resorting to preventative shutoffs after its equipment caused some of California’s worst blazes, forcing the company into bankruptcy last year. PG&E emerged from Chapter 11 in July after paying $25.5 billion to resolve fire claims.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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PG&E Begins Cutting Power in California to Prevent Fires
(Bloomberg) -- California’s largest utility, PG&E Corp., began cutting power to as many as 361,000 homes and businesses to prevent live wires from falling and sparking blazes as the most powerful winds of this year’s wildfire season roar across the state.The outages -- impacting an estimated 1.1 million people -- come as precariously low humidity and winds of up to 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour drive up the risk of fires, according to a statement. Utilities in Southern California are also warning they may need to cut power.The blackouts are the latest blow for a state that’s been battered by violent weather and has already seen a record 4.1 million acres (1.66 million hectares) scorched this year. PG&E has previously cut power four times in 2020 to prevent falling wires from igniting blazes in a region that’s tinder dry from heat and drought. This round is the biggest yet as an estimated 4.2 million people are at risk from extreme fire conditions, according to the National Weather Service.“This event looks particularly dangerous due to a combination of factors that we continue to track,” said Scott Strenfel, PG&E’s head of meteorology and fire science. Bone dry air will accompany the strong winds that are expected to pick up throughout the day on Sunday, he said.By Monday, humidity will be as low as 6% in Redding and just 5% in Grass Valley, according to the National Weather Service. It comes as the state is already riddled with dry brush and grasses due to some of the warmest temperatures record over the last nine months, according to the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Information.PG&E is cutting power in stages. It began at 10 a.m. local time Sunday in the Northern Sierra region and will continue through Monday evening, the company said. The outages will hit 36 counties that include the San Francisco Bay area, the Sierra Nevada foothills, the Central Valley and the Central Coast.The blackouts may hit densely populated parts of the San Francisco metropolitan area, including portions of Oakland, Berkeley and Marin County -- cutting power to many residents as they are working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. The city of Berkeley advised residents living in the hills to evacuate due to the fire risk, according to a statement.In Southern California, Edison International said about 75,000 customers could lose power beginning Monday. That’s about 225,000 people based on the size of the average California household. Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric Co. is considering about 21,000 outages.And Pacific Power, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said it could switch off power in Northern California and Southern Oregon on Sunday due to the gusts, according to a statement.Much of the U.S. West is at risk from wildfires as dry weather and stiff winds turn hillsides, forests and scrub land into tinderboxes. In Colorado, two of the largest fires in state history have forced the closure of Rocky Mountain National Park and triggered the evacuation of nearby towns.More than 8 million people across California will be in high-risk zones, including the cities of Sacramento, Stockton, and San Bernardino, the U.S. Storm Prediction Center said in its long-range forecast.The outages come on the heels of a blistering heat wave that gripped California earlier this month, driving temperatures to record daily highs. In August, a freak lightning storm sparked more than 150 wildfires in 24 hours. Days before that, the state’s grid operator ordered the first rotating outages since the Enron-era energy crisis of 2001 as scorching weather sent electricity demand surging.PG&E began resorting to preventative shutoffs after its equipment caused some of California’s worst blazes, forcing the company into bankruptcy last year. PG&E emerged from Chapter 11 in July after having paid $25.5 billion to resolve fire claims.(Adds outage details beginning in sixth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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Californians Brace For Wind, Fire and Worst Outages of the Year
(Bloomberg) -- California is bracing for the most powerful winds of this year’s already devastating wildfire season, prompting utilities to cut power in wide swaths of the state to prevent live wires from falling into dry brush and sparking blazes.In Northern California, PG&E Corp. plans to cut power to 386,000 homes and businesses -- an estimated 1.2 million people -- starting at 10 a.m. Sunday. In the south, Edison International said 73,428 customers could lose power -- affecting more than 200,000 people beginning Monday.The outages are the latest blow for a state that’s been battered by violent weather and has already seen a record 4.1 million acres (1.66 million hectares) scorched this year. PG&E has already cut power four times in 2020 to prevent falling wires from igniting blazes in a region that’s tinder dry from heat and drought. The new round of outages are the biggest by far, stretching across much of PG&E’s service territory. Across Northern California, an estimated 4.2 million people are at risk from extreme fire conditions, according to the National Weather Service.“This event looks particularly dangerous due to a combination of factors that we continue to track,” said Scott Strenfel, PG&E’s head of meteorology and fire science. Bone dry air will accompany the strong winds that are expected to pick up throughout the day on Sunday, he said.Winds are forecast to reach 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour in the northern part of the state, with gusts expected to last through Tuesday morning. By Monday, humidity will be as low as 6% in Redding and just 5% in Grass Valley, according to the National Weather Service. It comes as the state is already riddled with dry brush and grasses due to some of the warmest temperatures record over the last nine months, according to the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Information.PG&E’s outages are poised to hit 38 counties that include the San Francisco Bay area, the Sierra Nevada foothills, the Central Valley and the Central Coast. A final decision on the blackout will be made Sunday morning.The blackouts may hit densely populated parts of the San Francisco metropolitan area, including portions of Oakland, Berkeley and Marin County -- cutting power to many residents as they are working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. The city of Berkeley advised residents living in the hills to evacuate due to the fire risk, according to a statement.San Francisco, at relatively low risk of fires, is the only county in the Bay Area region not expected to be affected.PG&E and Southern California Edison aren’t the only utilities warning of outages. Pacific Power, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said Friday that it could switch off power for about 5,800 customers in Northern California and Southern Oregon on Sunday due to the gusts, according to a statement.Much of the U.S. West is at risk from wildfires as dry weather and stiff winds turn hillsides, forests and scrub land into tinderboxes. In Colorado, two of the largest fires in state history have forced the closure of Rocky Mountain National Park and triggered the evacuation of nearby towns.More than 8 million people across California will be in high-risk zones, including the cities of Sacramento, Stockton, and San Bernardino, the U.S. Storm Prediction Center said in its long-range forecast.The looming outages come on the heels of a blistering heat wave that gripped California earlier this month, driving temperatures to record daily highs. In August, a freak lightning storm sparked more than 150 wildfires in 24 hours. Days before that, the state’s grid operator ordered the first rotating outages since the Enron-era energy crisis of 2001 as scorching weather sent electricity demand surging.PG&E began resorting to preventative shutoffs after its equipment caused some of California’s worst blazes, forcing the company into bankruptcy last year. PG&E emerged from Chapter 11 in July after having paid $25.5 billion to resolve fire claims.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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Californians Face Year’s Biggest Power Shutoffs on Fire Risk
(Bloomberg) -- Californians are facing the largest mass blackout so far this year as the state’s biggest utility, PG&E Corp., prepares power shutoffs to prevent live wires from falling into dry brush and igniting wildfires with ferocious winds sweeping across the region.The company is planning to cut power to 386,000 homes and businesses -- an estimated 1.2 million people -- across Northern California starting at 10 a.m. Sunday, company officials said at a press briefing late Saturday. The outages are poised to hit 38 counties that include the San Francisco Bay area, the Sierra Nevada foothills, the Central Valley and the Central Coast. A final decision on the blackout will be made Sunday morning.Edison International’s Southern California Edison said 56,500 customers could lose power -- affecting about 170,000 people.The potential blackouts would be the latest blow for a state that’s been battered by extreme weather and has already seen a record 4.1 million acres (1.66 million hectares) scorched this year. PG&E has preemptively cut power four times in 2020 to prevent falling wires from igniting blazes in a region that’s tinder dry from heat and drought. The new round of outages would be the biggest by far, stretching across 38 counties.Winds starting this weekend are forecast to reach 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour in the northern part of the state, with gusts expected to last through Tuesday morning. By Monday, humidity will be as low as 6% in Redding and just 5% in Grass Valley, according to the National Weather Service. It comes as the state is already riddled with dry brush and grasses due to the hottest average temperatures over the last six months, according to records that go back 126 years, said Scott Strenfel, PG&E’s head of meteorology and fire science.The blackouts may hit densely populated parts of the San Francisco metropolitan area, including portions of Oakland, Berkeley and Marin County -- cutting power to many residents as they are working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. San Francisco, at relatively low risk of fires, is the only county in the Bay Area region not expected to be affected.PG&E isn’t the only utility warning of outages. Pacific Power, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said Friday that it could switch off power for about 5,800 customers in Northern California and Southern Oregon on Sunday due to the gusts, according to a statement.Much of the U.S. West is at risk from wildfires as dry weather and stiff winds turn hillsides, forests and scrub land into tinderboxes. In Colorado, two of the largest fires in state history have forced the closure of Rocky Mountain National Park and triggered the evacuation of nearby towns. And in Utah, Berkshire’s Rocky Mountain Power warned earlier this week it may cut power to about 1,800 customers in Sundance and Summit Park due to fire risk.More than 3.1 million people across California will be in high-risk zones, including the cities of Sacramento, Stockton, and Fairfield, the U.S. Storm Prediction Center said in its long-range forecast.The looming outages come on the heels of a blistering heat wave that gripped California earlier this month, driving temperatures to record daily highs. In August, a freak lightning storm sparked more than 150 wildfires in 24 hours. Days before that, the state’s grid operator ordered the first rotating outages since the Enron-era energy crisis of 2001 as scorching weather sent electricity demand surging.PG&E began resorting to preventative shutoffs after its equipment caused some of California’s worst blazes, forcing the company into bankruptcy last year. PG&E emerged from Chapter 11 in July after having paid $25.5 billion to resolve fire claims.“They have a lot of work to do not just to restore their power but to restore the trust that they have failed to earn over the course of decades,” Governor Gavin Newsom said during a briefing Friday. “That is self-evident to anyone living in the Bay Area.”(Adds latest numbers in second and third paragraphs.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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