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PG&E Cuts Power To Tens Of Thousands Facing Fire Threat

SACRAMENTO (CBS13/AP) — The latest on the PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs impacting tens of thousands of customers around Northern California:

6:35 p.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric began turning off power to more than 50,000 Northern California customers Wednesday evening as dry, windy conditions renew the threat of fire in a season already marked by deadly, devastating blazes.

The utility announced that it had begun cutting power to up to 33,000 customers, with about another 20,000 to follow in a few hours.

The shutoffs will affect nearly two dozen counties, mostly in the Sierras and San Francisco Bay Area, and could last 48 hours. 

The first round of shutoffs began between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesday in the following counties: Butte, Lake, Napa, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, Solano, Sonoma, Tehama, Yolo and Yuba.

The second round of shutoffs is scheduled to begin later Wednesday, impacting Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Monterey, Nevada, Placer, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Sierra counties.

READ ALSO: Hot Weather Prompts Grid Operator To Issue Flex Alert For Thursday

Customers can check the PG&E website here to see if their address may be impacted. PG&E said it plans to open 40 community resource centers for affected customers.

Preemptive electricity cuts are a strategy aimed at preventing fires from being started by power lines that have been damaged or knocked down amid high winds. PG&E equipment sparked several massive blazes that destroyed tens of thousands of homes and killed more than 100 people since 2017.

"These are challenging times. Not only are we right in the peak of the wildfire season ... many of us are working from home, schooling from home as well. We recognize that hardships are introduced when we shut off power," said Mark Quinlan, PG&E's incident commander. "It's our last resort option."

The figure represents about 1% of PG&E's 5.1 million customers. The nation's largest utility said last month that it is using smarter and shorter power shutoffs after receiving widespread criticism from the public and regulators last year when it turned off electricity to 2 million people to prevent its equipment from sparking wildfires.

A second shutoff for around 700 customers was expected Thursday afternoon in far northern counties as winds were expected to arrive there.

Hundreds of firefighters from across the state were being deployed to Northern California.

4:20 p.m. 

Power shutoffs will go into effect beginning Wednesday evening as a fire-weather watch takes effect this week, Pacific Gas and Electric announced.

High fire-risk conditions prompted PG&E to shut off power in parts of 24 counties, including several around the Greater Sacramento Region.

On Tuesday, PG&E held a public briefing outlining the possible PSPS event which could impact thousands of customers in Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sierra, Solano, Tehama, Yolo, and Yuba counties.

Shutoffs are expected to begin as early as 6 p.m. and will eventually impact about 54,000 total customers, the utility said.

Last week, temperatures cooled down with daytime highs as low as 74 degrees in the Sacramento area, but this week they ramped up into the mid-90s and the winds are expected to increase. Hot, dry wind typically from the northeast, or Diablo Winds, is expected to start Wednesday and last through Thursday morning.

READ: California's Wildfires Increasingly Contained, Firefighters Bracing For Return Of Dry Heat

PG&E said an alert would go out to affected customers prior to the Public Safety Power Shutoff. Power should be fully restored by Friday evening.

Customers can check the PG&E website here to see if their address may be impacted. PG&E said it plans to open 40 community resource centers for affected customers.

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