High winds and dry conditions forced PG&E to shut off powerlines in California last week, and the results were sadly predictable. Many Californians were not prepared for the man-made outages. Without generators or the time to adequately make accommodations to prevent food spoilage, many in the affected area found themselves throwing out most of their refrigerator.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Melanie Bettenhausen was learning to live with the devastating wildfires that periodically sweep through Northern California, but she isn’t sure she can endure the alternative offered by PG&E Corp.: mass blackouts.
Last year, a fire caused by a PG&E transmission line swept through Paradise, Calif., destroying her childhood home. Though she had already moved away and was running the North Coast Co-Op in this coastal town, her aunt was forced to flee the old family house.
On Wednesday, Ms. Bettenhausen’s life was disrupted again when PG&E cut the power to a vast swath of the state stretching from south of San Francisco almost to the Oregon border, explaining that high winds and dry brush made it too dangerous to run electricity through the company’s lines. Ms. Bettenhausen, 44 years old, worked 34 hours straight to keep the store open, using generators to run the registers and dry ice to cool the food.
When she arrived Thursday morning, the walk-in refrigerator was full of spoiled dairy products. All of it—tens of thousands of dollars worth of food—would have to be thrown away. “I don’t even know yet if we’re going to make it through this one,” she said. “Anyone looking at providing for their family and maintaining a living in this area has to be making plans.”
California residents have come face-to-face with an uncomfortable new reality: Large swaths of the state—by itself the fifth-largest economy in the world, and home to the globe’s most technologically advanced companies—may be subject to the sort of abrupt blackouts normally associated with underdeveloped countries.
The state’s three big investor-owned utilities now have regulatory permission to cut off power to parts of their service territories during strong winds to reduce the risk of their electric lines causing wildfires, after at least 21 blazes linked to utility equipment killed more than 100 people and burned tens of thousands of homes in recent years.
PG&E, the troubled utility that provides gas and electricity to more than 16 million people across 70,000 square miles of northern and central California, is a lightning rod for public anger. The company trails its peers in technology to track winds and isolate the areas where equipment is at highest risk of sparking fires. It is also running far behind on several of its most important safety efforts, records show, including this year’s tree-trimming campaign, which is less than 50% complete.
Read more here.
Californians fume over PG&E power outage
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