Strong Winds, Dry Weather Prompt New California Power Outages

By Sarah Le
Sarah Le
Sarah Le
Sarah Le is a reporter and editor for The Epoch Times in Southern California. She covers important general interest news events and topics in the state of California and the United States. She lives with her husband and two children in Los Angeles.
September 8, 2020Updated: September 8, 2020

After a weekend of record high temperatures and power outages, thousands of Californians are now facing new blackouts, some of which are designed to reduce the risk of causing new wildfires.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the state’s largest utility, announced it turned off power for about 172,000 customers across 22 counties in Northern California on the morning of Sept. 8, including parts of the Sierra foothills, Sacramento Valley, northern Sierra Mountains, and the North Bay Hills.

“High temperatures, extreme dryness and record-high winds have increased fire risks across the areas that we serve in Northern and Central California,” PG&E spokesperson Fiona Chan told The Epoch Times in an email.

PG&E said it would begin patrolling power lines and repairing damaged equipment after the weather improved. The company said restoration activities could only take place during daylight hours, and estimated power would not be restored for all customers until Sept. 9 at 9 p.m.

“PG&E will need to conduct safety inspections of approximately 10,625 miles of transmission and distribution lines, which is equivalent to twice the distance from San Francisco to Tokyo,” the company stated in a press release.

Southern California Edison (SCE) also sent out notices, via phone calls and email, regarding potential outages to about 66,000 customers in six different counties as of the morning of Sept. 8.

SCE, which is the primary electricity supplier for much of the southern part of the state, said the largest number of notifications was issued in San Bernardino County, to about 35,000 customers.

SCE spokesperson Robert Villegas told The Epoch Times that the company sent out workers to evaluate which areas would be most impacted from the weather.

“A lot of these circuits are in foothill communities, right off the mountains,” Villegas said.

“You’ll see Santa Ana winds coming through the canyons there at very, very high rates of speed, creating a significant danger, [with] material being blown into the lines.”

According to the National Weather Service, Red Flag Warnings due to strong winds and low humidity remain in effect for much of the state for Sept. 8 and Sept. 9. Wind gusts up to 55 mph are expected due to the annual Santa Ana wind conditions.

As of the morning of Sept. 8, around 9,800 SCE customers in Los Angeles County, and another 2,500 in Orange County, were still without power.

SCE spokesperson Villegas said the blackouts this weekend would have been worse if customers had not conserved energy during peak hours and turned down their thermostats during the heat wave.

“So a big thank you to the consumer,” he said.

More than 93,000 people went without power in Los Angeles and Orange counties over the holiday weekend.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) reported that about 9,700 customers remained without electricity as of noon on Sept. 8, down from more than 45,000 customers a day earlier.

“We had crews that were out, as I understand it, doing 16-hour shifts,” said LADWP Board of Water and Power Commission President Cynthia McClain-Hill at a Sept. 8 meeting.

“Every single resource that this department has, and every resource that we could beg, borrow or steal, was dedicated toward addressing this crisis,” she said.

California’s Independent System Operator (CAISO), which oversees the bulk of the state’s power grid, had issued a Flex Alert for Sept. 6 and Sept. 7, urging residents to limit their electricity use from 3 p.m. to to 9 p.m.

“There is currently not a sufficient supply of energy to meet the high amounts of demand during the heatwave,” stated CAISO in a press release.

Gov. Gavin Newsom also declared a statewide emergency on Sept. 6 due to the numerous fires and harsh weather conditions. The state was granted a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration from the White House in August to boost the state’s emergency response capabilities.