CALIFORNIA, USA —

When are the outages happening?

The first phase of outages occurred at around midnight on Wednesday. Phase two is still forthcoming. This second round of shutoffs was scheduled for noon on Wednesday, but has been pushed back until 8 p.m.

Why aren't SMUD/other electric companies participating?

This is a PG&E public safety power shutoff. Other electric companies do not need to take the precautions that PG&E does. There are multiple reasons for this, including several wildfires for which PG&E has been held liable.

A federal judge nearly ordered the electric company to shut off power every time wind reached a certain speed, but ended up leaving it up to PG&E's discretion. In order to avoid an uncontrolled wildfire, PG&E will preemptively shut off power for in grids that it deems to be at high risk of a wildfire. 

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For how many fires is PG&E responsible? 

In recent years, PG&E has been found to be responsible for at least 1,500 fires, including the deadly Sonoma County wildfire of 2017 and the Camp Fire of 2018. The latter of these two was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California's history. 

Is my area affected by the outage? 

You can find a map of areas affected by the outages here. According to the PG&E website, the following counties will experience power outages: 

12 a.m. 10/09/19 – Amador, Butte, Calaveras , Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Tehama, Trinity, Yolo, Yuba

8 p.m. 10/09/19 – Alameda, Alpine, Calaveras, Contra Costa, Mariposa, Mendocino, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Stanislaus, Tuolumne

Why shut off power now and not for the last several decades? 

This is likely due to the devastating wildfires of the last few years, which destroyed thousands of acres of forest and were some of the deadliest fires in California history. PG&E was found to be liable for damages from these fires. In an effort to prevent more wildfires, PG&E has proactively turned of power to areas that could be most affected by dry conditions and high wind speeds.

It's not even windy! Why is the power still turned off?

The power could be off in your area even if it isn't windy outside. This is because it may be windy where your power is generated, which is why your power may be turned off even if you are not experiencing windy conditions. 

Conditions are also subject to change, and since the National Weather Service has sent out a Red Flag Warning, it is best to be cautious. 

Are faulty lines the cause? 

These power outages are not due to faulty lines. Rather, PG&E is trying to avoid dangerous conditions posed by high wind speeds. There are hundreds of thousands of miles of lines that PG&E has to maintain. Many of those lines are above ground, which presents a fire risk when combined with the high wind speeds and dry conditions, as seen in Northern California areas this week.

How long will the power be out? 

Power outages are expected to continue until Thursday, but California residents are urged to plan for power to be shutoff for as long as seven days.

How will emergency services work if the power will be out for days? 

Places that need power--like hospitals, police stations, and fire stations--will have back up generators. Those places will be operating as close to normally as possible. 

Will the power go out every time it's windy?

No, there are multiple weather-related factors that caused PG&E to shut off power. Factors like dry conditions and low humidity are some of the concerns instigating these outages.  

Why can't I get gas at the gas station?

Ironically, gas stations do not run on gas. They run on electricity. With power outages, some gas stations will not be able to open. 

Will my cellphone still work? 

Yes! Cellphone providers have taken extra precautions in the event of a power outage. 

How can I prepare?

Some PG&E customers should prepare to have their power shut off for days. Gas up the car, charge your cell phones and other electronics, and buy a flashlight with extra batteries.

You can keep perishable items from spoiling by limiting the amount of times you open the refrigerator door. A fully stocked freezer can stay cool for up to 48 hours during a power outage. 

If you have time, buying a generator could be worth it to keep your power running. If you or a loved one has a life-saving medical device, such as an oxygen machine, a generator is a necessity.

Where can I find an affordable generator? 

These two commenters were concerned about finding an affordable generator for their power needs. 

Luckily, this fellow stepped in to help them find the perfect generator. 

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Do traffic lights still work during a power outage?

No. In areas where power if shut off, traffic lights may not be working, so drive carefully! 

Will my gas stove work in a power outage?

Probably not. Most gas stoves operate on gas and electricity, so they will not be functional once the electricity is shut off. 

Will I still be able to shower?

Maybe. This question is a tricky one. Most water is delivered to your home via electric pipes. But still, your water may or may not go off. Remember to try to conserve as much as possible, and if you have bottled water to spare, you can still flush your toilet by pouring some water into the boil and flushing as usual. 

Is there any help for individuals on oxygen or sleep machines that require electricity?

For those enrolled in PG&E's Medical Baseline Program, customers with qualifying medical conditions, such as those who need oxygen or sleep machines, would have received advanced notice of power outages in their area. However, PG&E does not offer additional assistance to those on life-saving medical equipment in the event of a power outage. 

If my groceries go bad due to the outage, will PG&E replace them?

Food spoilage is definitely a concern for those experiencing a power outage. PG&E allows customers to file a claim to receive compensation for their lost food items. Customers will need an itemized list of the cost and type of spoiled perishable food, with receipts or other documentation. 

IN-DEPTH: The story behind PG&E's shutoffs: Fire - Power - Money. Inside California's burning crisis and how it's going to cost us all:


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