Watch CBS News

"This is ridiculous": Residents fume over power outage in Northern California

Power cut in California to prevent wildfires
Power cut to hundreds of thousands in California to prevent wildfires 02:03

Sonoma, California — In an unprecedented move, nearly a million people have had their power cut in Northern California. The state's largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric or PG&E, is trying to prevent its wires from sparking wildfires, but that move is sparking anger.

The power outages began early Wednesday as California residents loaded up on essentials for what they say is a "man-made disaster."

PG&E has been forced to shut off electricity to customers because a forecast of high winds and bone dry heat is expected to put pressure on its aging and faulty infrastructure. It is a desperate attempt to avoid what happened in November when sparks from power lines ignited the fire that tore through the town of Paradise, killing 86.

Ron Blasingame lost his power at 2 a.m. and he could be in the dark for days.

"This is ridiculous! They are a public utility. How do they pass on their mistakes to us?" he said.

The lasting damage of the worst wildfire in California's history 03:50

Up to 34 California counties are experiencing a rolling blackout that began at midnight and will continue throughout the evening. By 6 p.m., more than 800,000 people will be off the grid.

Dermot Coll is keeping his bar open for a few more hours with a generator but anticipates losing a lot of money.

"I'm gonna tell you $30,000," he said.

Stanford economist Michael Wara estimates turning off the power could cost as much as $2.6 billion.

The economic impacts vary a lot, depending on who is blacked out, what kind of customer, whether it's a factory or supermarket or house.

At a hardware store in Sonoma, people have been waiting in line to be escorted by flashlight. It's not business as usual for a state confronted by a growing wildfire season. Winds are expected to be their strongest Thursday.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.