Monday, 14 October, 2019

´Unacceptable´ power cuts blasted as California fire risk spreads south

A customer shops for groceries at La Tapatia Market during a blackout in Napa California on Oct 9 2019 PG&E Starts Second Round of Power Shutoffs as Blackout Spreads
Steven Clarke | 11 October, 2019, 16:55

Power lines are to blame for igniting several massive wildfires in recent years in California State.

PG&E, which filed for bankruptcy at the beginning of this year burdened by the devastating 2018 wildfires in California, began on Wednesday morning the first phase of its three-phase Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) in large parts of its service areas in northern and central California.

The second phase of PG&E's shut-off began late Wednesday. Pacific time and extended the blackout to 234,000 more customers, said the utility, which was considering a third phase for 4,600 more dwellings and businesses.

A similar cutoff was under consideration by neighboring utility Southern California Edison for almost 174,000 of its customers, about 50,000 of them in Los Angeles County, should severe winds hit southern California on Thursday as forecast, SoCal Edison spokeswoman Taelor Bakewell said.

"We are entering into a two-, three- or four-day period of extreme fire danger in California", Governor Gavin Newsom said at an event in San Diego on Wednesday.

The National Weather Service said the hot gusty winds that usually hit northern California in October, sometimes called the "Diablo Winds", will continue into Friday morning. Coupled with low humidity, that's a prime environment for a rapid fire spread.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said "red-flag" warnings were posted across the state for what was shaping up to be the strongest wind event so far this season.

Iran says explosion sets oil tanker on fire near Saudi port city
State television reported that the explosion damaged two storerooms. "None of the crew members were injured at the explosion". Oil facilities and tankers have become a flash point of the ongoing tensions in this Middle East.

Pacific Gas & Electric is unable to say at this point how long the outages will last, but the company is telling people to make plans for living without electricity for up to five days.

The power cuts enable utility companies to inspect high-voltage lines for damage during particularly flammable conditions caused by high winds and dry vegetation.

PG&E has estimated that some 800,000 customers would have their power unplugged during the outage.

"The utilities have known for awhile now, I would say several years", Pincetl said, "that change in climate and the accumulation of brush around the pathways of the grid-lines that there is an increased chance of wildfire being caused by a spark from the grid or some other incident".

The utility declared bankruptcy in January to manage the legal costs after it was found responsible for some major wildfires, including the Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, which killed at least 86 people, and destroyed 14,000 residences past year.

The units will only be shipped to the company's supercharging stations, of which there are dozens in the the San Francisco Bay Area alone.

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