In a matter of weeks, California has been hit with two record-breaking heat waves, hundreds of blazes, freak lightning storms and dangerously poor air quality. Now, unusually strong winds are threatening to knock down power lines and ignite more wildfires. That prompted PG&E Corp. to impose power cuts for more than 500,000 people and could spurs utilities in Southern California to do the same on a smaller scale Tuesday night. As dangerous conditions stretch across the West, an Oregon-based utility has also switched off power to some of its customers.
Officials are responding with equally extreme measures. In August, California carried out its first rotating blackouts since the 2001 energy crisis, drawing the ire of millions who went powerless as extreme temperatures boosted demand for electricity. The Trump administration on Sunday declared a power emergency, allowing generating plants to run at full bore, regardless of environmental limits.
The preventative shutoffs are a fairly new and controversial practice, and their use by PG&E last year triggered investigations, even as utilities defended them as necessary in the face of increasingly wild weather.
Now, as a second round of ferocious temperatures abates, so-called Diablo winds sweeping in have set the conditions for even more outages