Updated 9:03 p.m.
Hundreds of thousands of Californians could find themselves without power over the Labor Day weekend, as both rolling blackouts and planned power shut offs could happen in the coming days.
Both issues are fueled by a crushing heat wave that has hit most of the state and a new round of wildfires. (You can find ways to track current wildfires, including a map, here.)
On Saturday evening, Pacific Gas & Electric announced it may shut off power for around 103,000 customers starting Monday due to strong winds and potential fire danger, as it has the past two years. A red flag warning is in effect for much of the region starting Monday at 10 p.m.
The shutoff would affect customers in parts of 17 counties in the Sierra Nevada foothills, North Bay and East Bay. Customers are being notified in Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Humboldt, Kern, Lake, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Sonoma, Tehama, Tuolumne and Yuba counties.
See a map of areas that could be affected by the power shutoff below.
New wildfires have erupted around the state, the largest being the Creek Fire in Fresno and Madera counties, where around 200 hikers were airlifted to safety after being stranded near the Mammoth Pools area.
The heat wave is also once again stressing California's electrical capacity. The manager of the state power grid, California ISO, has issued a statewide Flex Alert to avoid electrical outages. It starts Saturday and ends Monday.
On Sunday afternoon, the agency said it expected to come up short in the evening, but eventually called off any potential blackouts for the day.
Blackouts are still possible Monday. People are asked to take steps to conserve energy between 3 and 9 p.m. Officials recommend:
- Setting air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees
- Turning-off unnecessary lights
- Closing blinds and drapes
- Deferring using major appliances
- Unplugging unused electrical devices
- Limiting opening refrigerator doors
The Sacramento Municipal Utilities District, which serves customers in the region, said Friday it would like customers to conserve energy, but expects to avoid blackouts.
Last month, California ISO imposed rolling blackouts for the first time since 2001, affecting hundreds of thousands of customers throughout the state. The rolling blackouts are unrelated to last year’s power shutoffs during high fire conditions.
On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency, suspending some permitting requirements that will allow power plants to generate more electricity during the heat wave.
Planned power outages could begin as soon as Monday, as PG&E says it will continue the practice of shutting down electricity in communities where there is high-fire risk. The utility deliberately cut power several times in 2019 after downed PG&E power lines caused deadly and devastating fires in previous years.
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