PG&E may cut power to 750,000 California residents this week to reduce wildfire risk

Pacific Gas & Electric is preparing to potentially cut power to up to 250,000 Northern California customers mid-week as the forecast calls for desiccating winds that could damage equipment and spark wildfires.

PG&E estimates three people are represented by each “customer,” which means 750,000 California residents may be affected.

The intentional blackout is tentatively scheduled for portions of 19 counties in the Sierra Foothills, North Valley and North Bay. Other parts of the Bay Area are not expected to be impacted.

The preliminary list of counties posted in a press release Sunday night includes: Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Yolo and Yuba.

Blustery conditions are expected to develop early Wednesday (Nov. 20) and continue into Thursday morning with sustained winds of up to 25 mph and isolated gusts up to 55 mph in some areas. With little rain falling in California since last spring, vegetation is dry and fires could start easily and spread rapidly. What’s more, multiple wind events in October dried out the landscape.

“Average precipitation in the Northern Sierra by this point in November is typically 5 inches; this year, that region has received 0.3 inches of precipitation,” PG&E said in a statement. “Temperatures in PG&E’s service territory are 5 to 15 degrees above average for this time of year.”

PG&E will begin to notify potentially affected customers this morning by phone, text and email. PG&E is working closely with state, county, local and tribal partners to prepare for the potential PSPS.

The news comes after PG&E cut power three separate times in October to reduce wildfire risk. The utility says that since the last preemptive power outages, their site and call center have been bolstered to handle increased traffic; the PG&E outage site repeatedly went down during previous PSPS events.

Amy Graff is a digital editor for SFGATE. Email her at

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