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article imageCalifornia hit with power shutoffs as winds and fire risks rise

By Karen Graham     Oct 26, 2020 in Environment
Thousands of Californians are in the dark Monday because of PG&E's Public Safety Power Shutoffs. It's likely to stay that way until late Tuesday when the wind event, dubbed the "strongest winds of the season" is over.
As a precaution, Pacific Gas & Electric, the nation's largest utility, warned customers on Saturday of the coming shutoff after the National Weather Service issued "red flag warnings" for much of Northern California starting Sunday and into Tuesday.
The latest power shutoffs are the fifth time this year that PG&E has cut power to customers, hoping to reduce the risk that downed or fouled power lines or other equipment could ignite a blaze during bone-dry weather conditions and gusty winds.
Shutoffs began on Sunday in 36 counties with 225,000 customers in northern California having their power cut off, while another 126,000 customers in other areas had power suspended. The shutoffs include 106,000 customers in the Bay Area.
"This event is by far the largest we've experienced this year, the most extreme weather," said Aaron Johnson, the utility's vice president of wildfire safety and public engagement. "We're trying to find ways to make the events less difficult."
The "peak" period of concern will be from 6 p.m. Sunday through 7 to 10 a.m. on Monday and a second round of winds is expected on Monday night to Tuesday morning, PG&E Meteorologist Scott Strenfel says, according to ABC7 News.
Heat waves and drought in the west
Drought, strong winds, dry vegetation, and persistently high temperatures have plagued the nation's western states this fall, elevating critical fire conditions through much of the region.
In Colorado, the East Troublesome Fire in Grand County has burned 192,560 acres as of Sunday morning, with 15 percent contained, according to the latest report by the Incident Information System of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG).
A snowstorm and colder temperatures moved into the Rockies and central Colorado late Saturday, and this event helped firefighters to up their containment of the fire, especially around the perimeters. Winds are still the main driver of this wildfire, along with extremely dry conditions.
To date, there have been 46,681 fires in the United States, burning 8,608,646 acres -- nearly double the acreage burned in 2019, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
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