With the persistent winds slamming Northern California this week, the National Weather Service has extended the Red Flag Warning until Friday as the PG&E power shutdowns remain in effect for hundreds of thousands of residents.
Although no significant fire activity has been recorded during a fearful week in NorCal, extreme fire weather including wind gusts up to 50 mph have kept firefighters in fear that the next devastating wildfire could occur this week. The Red Flag Warning has been issued for most of the counties in NorCal:
PG&E began the process of restoring power to residents in the Sierra Foothills and Humboldt County, but for hundreds of thousands of NorCal residents, they fear that the shutoffs could stay in place through the weekend, maybe even longer. The shutoffs began on Wednesday morning and some have been notified that they could last through next Tuesday, although that report could not be substantiated.
“PG&E has now restored power to approximately 50,000 customers in the Sierra Foothills since the shutoff began,” the power company said in a statement. “Improving weather means patrols in some areas of Humboldt County have started. PG&E anticipates being able to restore power to 60,000 to 80,000 customers” at some point Thursday.
Businesses and schools remain closed in much NorCal and emergency services are on high alert as the dangers of having no power remain prevalent throughout communities. Retirement communities have staff working overtime to take care of the needs of their residents, and reports of people sleeping in cars are the result of a power company fearful of sparking a dangerous wildfire. There have also been reports of car wrecks due to powerless traffic lights.
Caltrans reminds drivers to treat non-operational (dark) and red flashing traffic signals as all-way stops and to proceed through intersections with caution as power outages continue throughout portions of the state. pic.twitter.com/NXW6xBcTJu— Caltrans District 3 (@CaltransDist3) October 10, 2019
The shutoffs are an unprecedented approach to the devastating wildfires of 2017 and 2018 that cost people their homes and for some, their lives. But for PG&E, those shutoffs cost the San Francisco-based company billions in payouts.
For now, as hundreds of thousands remain in the dark, the question remain – Is this a long term solution for preventing wildfires?