Latest: Utility defends itself against outage outrage

National

Firefighters watch as a helicopter drops water in a wildfire in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Latest on planned power shutoffs to prevent wildfires (all times local):

6:40 p.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric Corp.’s president and CEO has defended the utility’s unpopular decision to switch power off in the second blackout this month.

Bill Johnson of PG&E took pains during a televised briefing to say the company was doing a better job communicating with local governments and the general public ahead of the blackouts.

Johnson said Wednesday that the utility was “working in lockstep” with state agencies. He also said the PG&E website where customers can get information was working well, after repeatedly crashing during the outage earlier this month.

PG&E has said the 48-hour power outages were expected to affect nearly half a million people in parts of 17 Northern California counties.

The utility says the shutoffs are designed to reduce the risk of wildfires amid dry, windy conditions.

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6:15 p.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric says precautionary power outages affecting nearly 180,000 homes and businesses began as planned in Northern California, where dangerous winds are bringing severe fire risk.

PG&E says most shutoffs will be complete by Wednesday night in the Sierra foothills and north of the San Francisco Bay Area. Additional outages for a small number of customers in San Mateo and Kern counties are planned to begin at 1 a.m. Thursday.

The utility says it’s watching another wind event that could prompt another round of shutoffs in Northern California starting late Saturday.

Meanwhile Southern California Edison says it’s prepared to cut power to more than 300,000 customers as powerful gusts move through greater Los Angeles starting Thursday.

The utilities say the blackouts are intended to prevent winds from damaging electrical equipment and starting wildfires.

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3:10 p.m.

Authorities say power outages have started in Northern California after the state’s largest utility said it was planning a widespread blackout due to wildfire danger.

The Santa Rosa Fire Department tweeted that shutoffs had started in Santa Rosa around 3 p.m. Wednesday and it was getting multiple reports of outages.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said earlier Wednesday it would start precautionary power shutoffs in the afternoon affecting nearly 180,000 homes and businesses — roughly a half million people — in portions of 17 counties, mostly in the Sierra foothills and north of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The utility has said the outages will last about 48 hours.

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2 p.m.

Southern California Edison is warning it could cut power to 308,000 customers in seven counties to prevent winds from damaging electrical equipment and starting wildfires.

The utility nearly doubled its estimate of the number of homes and businesses that might lose electricity as a pre-emptive measure.

Earlier in the day, Edison said a possible outage Thursday affect about 160,000 people.

Red flag warnings for severe fire danger are expected later Wednesday and will likely last through Friday evening for much of greater Los Angeles. Forecasters predict peak wind gusts of 55 mph (89 kph).

To the north, Pacific Gas & Electric says it’s going forward Wednesday with blackouts that could affect 450,000 people in 17 counties of Northern California.

The shutoffs are expected in the Sierra Foothills, followed by blackouts north of the San Francisco Bay Area.

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1:45 p.m.

A Northern California elected official critical of the way Pacific Gas & Electric handled a power shut-off two weeks ago says the utility is sharing more information in preparation for another outage planned to begin Wednesday.

Still, Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore says he can’t believe wide sections of California’s wine country need shutting down in this modern age.

He’s also astonished the utility did not do test runs or upgrade its equipment in the year it has had to prepare for pre-emptive shut-offs aimed at preventing wildfires.

PG&E is cutting power to 450,000 people in Northern California amid forecasts of dry, gusty winds.

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10:15 a.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric Company says it is proceeding with planned power shutoffs that will affect nearly 180,000 customers throughout portions of Northern California.

The utility says the shutoffs affecting about 450,000 people are expected to begin around 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Sierra Foothills, followed soon after by blackouts north of the San Francisco Bay Area. In all, the power will be cut to portions of 17 counties.

PG&E says the shutoffs are needed to prevent wildfires caused by downed or fouled power lines as the National Weather Service forecasts gusty winds amid hot, dry weather.

Meanwhile, Southern California Edison says it could cut power Thursday to more than 160,000 customers in six counties and San Diego Gas & Electric is warning of power shutoffs to about 24,000 customers.

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12 a.m.:

Pacific Gas & Electric will decide Wednesday whether to black out some half-million customers as dangerous fire weather returns to California.

PG&E says it could begin precautionary power shutoffs as early as Wednesday afternoon to about 189,000 homes and businesses in portions of 16 counties, mostly in the Sierra foothills and north of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The utility says the outages will last about 48 hours.

A blackout two weeks ago affected about 2 million people in northern and central California. PG&E says both shutoffs were aimed at preventing wildfires caused by downed or fouled power lines. The danger is from gusty winds in the midst of hot, dry weather.

Meanwhile, Southern California Edison says it could cut power Thursday to about 132,000 customers in six counties — around 300,000 people.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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