The Latest: Amid power shutoff, authorities investigating shooting that targeted PG&E truck

Posted at 11:23 AM, Oct 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-09 20:31:24-04

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The Latest on power outages in California (all times local):

4:15 p.m.

Authorities are asking the public to be kind to frontline utility workers in California as anger mounts against Pacific Gas and Electric over a power shutdown.

PG&E is cutting power to customers in 34 counties as dry, gusty winds create dangerous wildfires conditions.

The utility's faulty equipment was to blame for a deadly fire a year ago that killed 85 people and nearly wiped out the town of Paradise.

Sacramento's KCRA-TV says the California Highway Patrol is investigating an incident Tuesday in Colusa County in which an occupied PG&E truck was damaged in a possible shooting before the shutdown began. The worker was not hurt.

KRCR-TV in Redding , California reports a PG&E office in Oroville was closed due to vandalism.

Authorities have not linked those incidents to the shut-off.


2:40 p.m.

With a power shut-down looming, residents of the Oakland Hills, where a wildfire in 1991 killed 25 people and destroyed thousands of homes, spent the morning buying bottled water, getting cash and filling their cars with gas.

But noon came and went, and the power remained on.

After cutting power to hundreds of thousands of customers, Pacific Gas & Electric delayed until 8 p.m. a power shut-off intended to prevent wildfires in a large swath of the San Francisco Bay Area.

PG&E said wind gusts had not yet reached problematic speeds in the area. Restaurants, coffee shops and clothing stores remained open.

Some larger businesses, such as grocery stores, rented power generators so they can stay open if power goes out.


2:25 p.m.

In the El Dorado Hills east of Sacramento, California, Ruth Self and her son are taking a planned power outage affecting large parts of California in stride.

They were leaving a grocery store Wednesday and remember when 85 lives were lost when a deadly fire ripped through Paradise in the Sierra Nevada foothills nearly a year ago.

Ruth Self says Pacific Gas & Electric is doing the right thing in shutting off electricity in advance of dry, gusty winds that were forecast to sweep much of California.

The Paradise wildfire was blamed on PG&E transmission lines.

Her son Graham Self said they'll "have to drink beer 'til the power comes back on," given the store's depleted supplies of water and ice.


2:05 p.m.

A small city expecting a power shut-off as California's largest utility moves to prevent wildfires is imposing a curfew.

Officials with the city of Morgan Hill said Wednesday on its Facebook page that the curfew is intended to reduce opportunities for crime in blackout areas.

The curfew will begin at 7 p.m. and lift at 6:30 a.m. Thursday. People can travel by vehicle.

Morgan Hill is about 24 miles (40 kilometers) south of San Jose. It has about 45,000 residents.

Pacific Gas and Electric says as many as 2 million people will remain without power at least through Thursday.


1:20 p.m.

Forecasters say strong winds are buffeting high elevations in the mountains north of San Francisco and expected to reach lower elevations as California undergoes a power outage to prevents winds from knocking down power lines and stating fires.

National Weather Service meteorologist Steven Anderson said gusts of 40 mph (64 kph) were recorded Wednesday and expected to increase and move south.

Anderson says winds should peak between Wednesday night and Thursday morning in much of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Some residents upset with the blackouts complained that the utility rushed to cut power when winds were not strong.

PG&E says it expects to cut power to eight counties later Wednesday. San Francisco County is exempted.

The utility relies on its own weather forecasters when deciding whether to cut power.


12:39 p.m.

People in Moraga, California, were lining up at gas stations to fill their tanks and at the town's only grocery store to buy food before possibly having their electricity turned off.

Shelves also were also being emptied of emergency supplies at the town hardware store before Pacific Gas and Electric shut down power to help prevent wildfires.

Hardware and Lumber store owner Bill Snider said he sold 500 flashlights Tuesday and the shop ran out of batteries and coolers, even pricey ones that cost as much as $400.

Customer Elma Lear of Lafayette said she had to purchase $40 worth of beeswax candles from a home decor shop because there were none left at the hardware.


12:25 p.m.

At Friedman's Home Improvement store in Sonoma, California, employees with flashlights and head lamps took customers into the darkened store to buy batteries, power cords, flashlights and other items needed to get them through a widespread power blackout to help prevent wildfires.

Contractor Rick Lachmiller came to Friedman's early Wednesday to buy extension cords for his generator after his home lost power around 1 a.m.

He said he was upset and feels PG&E jumped the gun on the outage, since it was not even windy Wednesday morning, He also said the utility did not provide enough warning.

PG&E spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan said that because of the way the electric grid is laid out, some customers may be affected by the outage even though they're not experiencing extreme weather conditions in their location.

Store co-owner Barry Friedman said many of his employees had childcare issues since most schools were closed Wednesday.

California's largest utility says as many as 2 million people will remain without power at least through Thursday.


11:40 a.m.

Retirees John and Greta Maltbie say they prepared for a widespread power blackout intended to prevent wildfires in California by buying bottled water, getting cash and filling their car with gas.

But the couple in suburban Sacramento forgot to charge their cellphones and were unable to get information on the Pacific Gas and Electric website, which was down after being overloaded with visitors.

The Maltbies were among three people at an air-conditioned tent set up by PG&E in the parking lot of a church. They were charging their phones Wednesday and trying to get more information on the outage.

The utility says it has set up at least one community center in every county affected by its outages to provide information, water and power for people who need to charge medical or other devices.

California's largest utility says as many as 2 million people will remain without power at least through Thursday as a precaution to protect against wildfires.

11:10 a.m.

California's largest utility says as many as 2 million people will remain without power at least through Thursday as a precaution to protect against wildfires.

San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties are not impacted at this time.

Pacific Gas and Electric spokesman Mark Mesesan said Wednesday it may take days to restore power because power lines and equipment must be checked before being re-energized.

PG&E cut out power to about half a million customers early Wednesday and says it plans to shut off electricity at noon to another 234,000, many of them in the San Francisco Bay Area. Another 43,000 customers could lose power later in the day.

Mesesan says the outages are a safety measure.

One utility customer represents between two and three people.


9:55 a.m.

Wildfire-prevention power shutoffs affecting thousands of people in northern and central California could spread to other parts of the state where gusty and dry conditions are expected.

Pacific Gas and Electric shut off power to more than half a million customers Wednesday in Northern California in the biggest planned shut off in the state's history.

Southern California Edison is considering power shutoffs to nearly 174,000 customers in nine counties and San Diego Gas & Electric says it has notified about 30,000 customers in backcountry areas.

Red Flag warnings for critical fire weather are expected to go into effect Thursday because of forecasts calling for Southern California's notoriously gusty Santa Ana winds.


9:05 a.m.

Residents in Sonoma in California's wine country are swarming to the few businesses opened in the town's square amid a power outage expected to last for days - a bakery with lines out the door and a bar lit with lanterns.

Pacific Gas and shut off power to more than half a million customers in Northern California in the biggest planned shut off in the state's history. The utility said Wednesday it is trying to prevent its equipment from starting wildfires during hot, windy weather.

At the Basque Boulangerie Cafe, workers used battery-powered lights and kept track of cash-only sales by listing them on a sheet of paper. John Vitale says he was happy to find out the cafe had opened after employees prepared the outage by baking bread and pastries.

Vitale tells KTVU-TV he drove around Sonoma looking for a place to get breakfast and feels fortunate to have found coffee and pastries.


7:30 a.m.

The California Transportation Department says two tunnels in the San Francisco Bay Area that depend on electricity to function will remain open during a power outage affecting a large swath of Northern California.

Caltrans crews worked through the night to install generators at the Caldecott Tunnel linking the East Bay to San Francisco and the Tom Lantos Tunnel on State Route 1 in Pacifica.

The agency says the generators should be working by midday Wednesday when Pacific Gas and Electric is expected to shut off power in the Bay Area.

The utility began cutting out power to hundreds of thousands of people just after midnight Wednesday to prevent what the utility called an unprecedented wildfire danger.


6:30 a.m.

Pacific Gas and Electric has shut off power to more than half a million customers in Northern California in the biggest planned shut off in the state's history.

The utility said Wednesday it will gradually turn off electricity to nearly 800,000 customers to prevent its equipment from starting wildfires during hot, windy weather.

It says a second group of about 234,000 customers will lose power starting at noon.

The utility says it's considering turning off power to another 42,000 customers in areas it serves near Southern California. It says it will determine a time and the specific locations later Wednesday.


12:00 a.m.

Millions of people in northern and central California are facing days without power as Pacific Gas & Electric creates the largest preventive blackout in state history.

The utility says it will start to shut down power at midnight Wednesday to customers to reduce the chance of fierce winds knocking trees into power lines or downing equipment and sparking wildfires.

People preparing for the outages emptied shelves of bottled water and batteries, and there were lines at gas pumps.

PG&E planned to shut off power to 800,000 home and businesses in 34 counties through Thursday. But the utility warned it could take up to five days to restore power because the lines must be inspected to make sure they're safe.

To the south, Southern California Edison said more than 106,000 of its customers in parts of eight counties could face power cuts as early as Thursday as Santa Ana winds loomed.

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