Northern California Preemptively Turns Off Power to Thousands Preparing For Dangerous Fire Conditions

File photo of PG&E restoring power after fires in October 2017
File photo of PG&E restoring power after fires in October 2017
Photo: Getty Images

The Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) has preemptively cut off power to roughly 87,000 customers in Northern California to prepare for dangerous fire conditions. The move is unprecedented in the region but the power company is being extra cautious after last year’s devastating fires.


As SF Gate explains, the decision to cut electricity in a dozen counties was made because power lines can become incredibly dangerous during high winds. Downed power lines have been blamed for starting fires in the past. And now that humidity levels are below 20 percent, the dry conditions in the area mean that tonight’s winds could be catastrophic.

The decision was announced late last night on Twitter but many people in the region are unhappy with the fact that they didn’t receive more warning. PG&E sent out tweets as early as October 13, but, the website with information about how to prepare for a power outage, is currently offline.


“Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and the communities we serve. We know how much our customers rely on electric service, and we have made the decision to turn off power as a last resort given the extreme fire danger conditions these communities are experiencing,” PG&E’s senior vice president of electric operations told the East Bay Times.

Wind gusts in Mt. St. Helena have been as fast as 72 mph overnight, but wind gusts in the East Bay have been between 25 and 45mph.

Some school districts in Lake County and Napa County have decided to cancel classes today because of the power outages. Calistoga Joint Unified School District has canceled school, though Upper Lake and Lucerne districts are going to be open, according to ABC7. So if you live in the area you may want to check the local news before you send the little kiddies off to class.



Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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I’ve always wondered why this isn’t done for hurricanes on the east coast. Seems like almost every hurricane causes a fire due to downed lines. I remember a story last year where someone died because their house caught fire due to downed lines.