California’s electricity crisis is threatening to deepen as a heat wave gives way to wind storms, prompting the state’s largest utility to warn it may cut power to more than 450,000 people to prevent live wires from sparking wildfires.
The possible shutoffs by PG&E Corp. are the latest in a tumultuous run for the disaster-weary state, where climate change makes weather ever more extreme. Last month, a record-breaking heat wave triggered California’s first rotating blackouts since the 2001 energy crisis. Next came a rash of wildfires.
And now, as a second round of ferocious temperatures abates, winds sweeping off the Pacific Ocean threaten to trigger even more blazes. PG&E, which filed for bankruptcy last year after its equipment sparked deadly wildfires, warned the shutoffs could impact portions of 21 counties late Monday in the Sierra foothills and North Bay.
While temperatures were lower Monday in some areas, officials said they remain concerned about getting through the afternoon, in part because of the fires.
“It’s still pushing to the limit,” John Phipps, director of real-time operations for the organization that runs California’s grid, said during a news conference Monday afternoon.