Millions Across California Brace for PG&E’s Widespread Power Shut-Offs

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While Pacific Gas and Electric focuses on preventing a major fire, the utility is well aware the largest preventative power shut-off event in the state will be a challenge for a lot of families.

A phrase said a lot in the foothills communities Tuesday night – “it’s an inconvenience.”

But there are those like Linda Gaskin who understand while having her power shut off isn't ideal, it may be necessary.

“I mean it is an inconvenience. I understand because of the Camp Fire and we did lose a home there. So, I understand the precautions,” she told FOX40.

Gaskin and her husband drove past their community church turned resource center Tuesday, which was already set up for those without power.

Meanwhile, others in El Dorado Hills were stocking up on food and water.

“It’s a little bit scary because, you know, that’s a basic need in your daily life,” said PG&E customer Angie Sobrepena.

According to PG&E, the utility will be cutting power to roughly 800,000 customers in 34 counties across northern and central California.

As of Wednesday morning, nearly 513,000 customers lost power in the first phase of shutoffs. The second phase will occur around noon Wednesday, impacting approximately 234,000 customers.

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“This is our largest public safety power shut-off thus far,” said PG&E spokeswoman Brandi Merlo.

Merlo said it’s a decision the utility does not take lightly.

PG&E just installed 600 weather stations across their 70,000-square-mile coverage area. The information those stations are providing, along with the National Weather Service, all point to conditions being ripe for a major wildfire.

“We’re using that all to determine what’s best for the safety of our customers,” Merlo told FOX40. “So, we’re certainly looking at this as an opportunity to reduce the risk of wildfire across our service area and keep our customers and our community safe.”

For most customers in the foothills, PG&E said power will not likely be back on until after midday Thursday. They’re asking customers to be prepared for no power into Saturday.

And while, eventually, they’ll get power back, the money they spend in the meantime will not be reimbursed by PG&E.

“Right now, there’s not a method for that. They can submit a claim but right now a PSPS event would not qualify for something to be recuperated,” said Keith Stephens, PG&E vice president of corporate relations and chief communications officer.

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Preparing for the Power Shut-Offs

At local hardware stores Tuesday, power outage supplies are selling quickly.

Hills Flat Lumber Co. in Colfax sold out of generators. Cashier Brook Rascon said customers were heading to the store after not finding them elsewhere.

PG&E recommends having flashlights, fresh batteries, first aid supplies, non-perishable food and water. And you may want to get cash before ATMs possibly go offline.

Firefighters add that residents should have an evacuation plan, practice how to manually open automatic garage doors and practice safe operation of generators.

"Generators need to be placed outdoors away from windows where the gas is and the carbon monoxide can go inside and cause harm to people that are sleeping," said Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District Capt. Chris Vestal. "We actually recommend that you use a battery-powered type generator if you need backup power."

Vestal recommends charging phones and electronics Tuesday night before the midnight deadline.

"Before you go to bed tonight, make sure you have your phones plugged in and fully charged," he said. "With a power outage expected sometime between midnight and 4 a.m., you should be able to get a full charge to get you through the night."

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