The Latest: Authorities worry winds could spark new fires
SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on planned power outages to prevent California wildfires (all times local):
Forecasters say all the elements are in place for a powerful new round of Southern California’s notorious Santa Ana winds, the withering gusts with a long history of turning sparks into infernos.
The National Weather Service says the winds are expected to develop late Tuesday, sweeping from the interior out to sea.
Meteorologists predict “a remarkable and dangerous event” with 60-70 mph (96-112 kph) gusts in the mountains and some valleys.
Authorities are worried the winds could hurl embers from the smoldering Getty Fire on the west side of Los Angeles and start new fires.
About 9,000 homes remain evacuated. City Councilman Mike Bonin says that’s because experts have analyzed the paths burned by two Santa Ana-spawned disasters — the 1961 Bel Air Fire and the 1978 Mandeville Canyon Fire.
California’s largest utility says 1 million people remain without power after a weekend shut-off to try to prevent wildfires left nearly 2.7 million people without electricity.
Some of those still in the dark are unlikely to get their power restored as Pacific Gas & Electric Co. initiates another round of blackouts Tuesday in Northern California because of dry, strong winds.
PG&E spokeswoman Monica Tell said Tuesday that the utility started cutting power to customers at 5 a.m. Tuesday in the Sierra Nevada foothills.
This is the third planned shut-off in a week and the fourth this month.
She said 1.5 million people are expected to lose electricity in this round.
Pacific Gas & Electric has started shutting off power to parts of Marin County north of San Francisco even before expected restorations of power from a previous shut-off had been completed.
Virtually all customers of the wealthy suburb on the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge lost power Oct. 26 as part of planned blackouts by PG&E to prevent wildfire amid hot, gusty winds.
The county has about 260,000 people and some have been without power since Saturday afternoon.
PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said in a tweet that the new round of shut-offs started around 8 a.m. Tuesday, earlier than estimated because of weather and “impacts on our transmission system” from a fire in wine country.
The PG&E power shut-offs Tuesday are the third in a week and the fourth in one month.
A wildfire burning in Northern California’s wine country increased in size overnight but fire crews have kept pace containing the flames.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials said Tuesday that the fire in Sonoma County north of San Francisco is now 118 square miles (305 square kilometers). That’s up from 103 square miles (267 square kilometers) Monday morning.
The fire started last week and remains at 15% contained, which is the same percentage as Monday night, when the fire was smaller.
About 156,000 people remain under evacuation orders after about 30,000 people who had been evacuated were allowed home Monday.
About 90,000 structures are under threatened, most of them homes.
The fire has destroyed 124 buildings, including 57 homes.
Los Angeles firefighters are working to increase containment of a wildfire in the city’s Brentwood area before a new round of gusty Santa Ana winds raise the wildfire threat.
Mayor Eric Garcetti says the fire covers 658 acres (266 hectares) Tuesday after growing only slightly overnight and is 5% contained.
The fire is only smoldering but Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas warns that a single ember blown downwind could start a new fire.
Forecasters predict what could be the strongest Santa Ana wind event so far this season, with gusts up to 70 mph (112 kph) starting around 11 p.m.
The fire erupted early Monday and rapidly spread through neighborhoods in canyons and on ridges of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Eight homes have been destroyed and six damaged. Extensive evacuation orders remain in place.
The Pacific Gas & Electric Co. utility has begun a new phase of shutting off power in parts of its Northern California service area to try to prevent its equipment from sparking wildfires during periods of strong winds and extremely dangerous fire conditions.
Utility spokeswoman Ari Vanrenen said Tuesday that the utility began the process of shutting off power early Tuesday to about 46,000 customers in Butte, Tehama, Plumas, Trinity and Shasta counties.
There are about 2.5 people for every customer, meaning about 115,000 people are affected.
Vanrenen says power could be cut later Tuesday to 596,000 customers in 29 counties. That would affect 1.5 million people.
Millions of Californians prepared to be in the dark — some 5 days, or longer — as the nation’s largest utility said it was switching off power again Tuesday to prevent powerful winds from damaging its equipment and sparking more fires.
Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. said its latest blackout will start early Tuesday and affect about 1.5 million people —in 29 Northern California counties.
Across the region, it was clear that patience was wearing thin and frustration at the utility was growing.
Southern California Edison had cut off power to about 800 people as of Monday night and warned that it was considering disconnecting about 400,000 more as winds return midweek.