PG&E prepares for potential power shutoffs starting Wednesday

Winds are expected to pickup midday Wednesday and continue through Friday, pointing to the possibility of at least two days without power for parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and the mountains in Sonoma and Napa county - communities still reeling from recent wildfires, one of which is still smoldering.

A so-called Diablo wind event will develop by Wednesday evening that will require PG&E to start turning off power as soon as 6 p.m. local time in 24 counties including parts of Oakland and in the Northern California wine country resort town of Calistoga, a spokeswoman said.

Numerous studies have linked bigger wildfires in America to climate change from the burning of coal, oil and gas. Scientists have said climate change has made California much drier, meaning trees and other plants are more flammable. Shortly after 12 p.m. Friday, the weather service extended it further into Saturday morning. Previous conservation efforts this summer were praised for reducing the power demand and avoiding rolling blackouts. About 50,000 customers across 21 counties could be impacted if PG&E initiates a PSPS, the utility said in a news release Monday evening.

PG&E says more than 1,200 employees have either been working on the ground or in 47 helicopters that they are using to inspect about 3,200 miles of power lines for damage or hazards.

PG&E's power cuts were the third in less than two months. In addition, the utility said the winds weren't as widespread as initially feared.

The outages would include regions already hit by massive wildfires.

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All power should be restored by late Friday night, the utility said.

The Zogg Fire to our north is now 99-percent contained, while the August Complex fires are slowly gaining containment and now stand at 75-percent contained.

The fires in California and elsewhere on the West Coast also exposed millions of people to hazardous pollution levels, causing emergency room visits to spike and potentially thousands of deaths among the elderly and infirm, according to an Associated Press analysis of pollution data and interviews with physicians, health authorities and researchers.

The renewed unsafe weather conditions developed as most of the huge fires that erupted over the past eight weeks have been fully or significantly contained and skies once stained orange by heavy smoke were blue again. "They grow much more quickly".

Record-breaking wildfires in California this year have charred more than 4.1 million acres, killed 31 people and destroyed more than 9,200 homes and businesses, according to the state's fire agency.

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