Record, planned power outages that could affect more than 2-M people in California began Saturday afternoon with what the state’s largest utility called a “historic wind event” posing extreme fire danger.
Mandatory evacuation orders meanwhile grew in Northern California on Saturday in the face of an ongoing blaze in wine country. One death, in SoCal, has been connected to statewide blazes blamed on the fire weather.
The now-25,000-acre Kincade Fire in Sonoma County continued to roar with only 10% containment, prompting an expansion of evacuation orders that now cover at least 50,000 residents. Fire officials said 49 structures have been destroyed so far.
Northern California Saturday night experienced a 2nd wave of fire weather, composed of warm, dry winds that rush down mountain ranges toward the sea.
“Wind storm” is a fair descriptor of the fire weather, said a spokesperson for utility giant PG&E and a National Weather Service meteorologist.
Offshore gusts of up to 90 mph, which would be hurricane-level, were possible in the North Bay mountains, the meteorologist said.
He also expressed alarm at the expected duration of the event , at more than 24 hours.
“The winds will be extremely high in the fire zones,” he said. “It’s a very long-duration event.
Pacific Gas & Electric, (NYSE:PCG) the state’s largest utility, said in a statement Saturday that “a historic wind event” is prompting it to expand precautionary outages by nearly 100,000 customers to 940,000, the highest number ever impacted by such pre-emptive blackouts, its spokeswoman said.
She said the utility does not track average customers per account but, using common metrics, the phased outages begin at 2 p.m. PDT Saturday, could affect well over 2-M people.
That number of people in the dark is likely to outnumber the previous record, when fire weather prompted PG&E to cut power to 738,000 customers on 10 October she said.