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PG&E leaves 250,000 homes still without power

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CEO Bill Johnson apologizes twice—once for the blackouts and again on behalf of company executives partying in wine country on the eve of power shutoffs

An intersection with darkened traffic lights and cars with their headlights on.
Blackouts in Sonoma on Thursday.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Late Thursday, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) reported that it has restored power to more than half of the Northern California households affected by the utility company’s intentional mass blackouts this week. But hundreds of thousands of customers remain in the dark.

“About 426,000 out of a total 738,000 customers have been restored, including full restoration in Humboldt, Siskiyou and Trinity counties. About 312,000 customers remain without power,” according to a PG&E statement issued Thursday night.

[Update: A PG&E spokesperson tells Curbed SF that the count is down to about 250,000 by Friday morning. Note that this refers to the number of meters being serviced at homes and businesses, so 250,000 outages could easily mean half a million or more individuals, although nobody knows the precise count.]

According to the utility outfit’s outage center page, tens of thousands of households across every Bay Area county, except for San Francisco, remain without power Friday morning, with the highest concentration of shutoffs in areas around cities like Los Gatos, Pescadero, Redwood City, Orinda, Lafayette, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Fairfield, and Bolinas.

The National Weather Service said that its red flag warning from earlier in the week has expired, as forecasts going into the weekend call for cooler temperatures and less powerful winds throughout the region.

Cal Fire reports only one active wildfire in the Bay Area, a 40-acre blaze near Moraga that was 95 percent contained on Thursday evening.

PG&E said it cannot restore power to some areas until safety inspections—”which can only take place during daylight hours”—conclude, pledging 6,300 inspectors and 44 helicopters for the job starting Friday morning.

On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom roasted PG&E over the induced power outages at a press conference.

While Newsom previously said that the blackouts were “appropriate under the circumstances,” he added Thursday that those circumstances stemmed from “greed and mismanagement over the course of decades,” accusing PG&E of neglecting safety measures and upkeep in favor of profit in the past.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, based in San Mateo, issued a statement complaining that “PG&E clearly hasn’t made its system safe” and accused the company of acting thoughtlessly to cover up neglect.

State Sen. Scott Wiener took to Twitter Thursday to say that “shutting off power to millions has big implications for our safety, health, economy.” He derided PG&E as “a bankrupt corporation that may soon be owned by hedge funds.”

In September, Wiener introduced SB 378, a bill that would penalize PG&E for intentional outages even in the name of fire safety, hopefully removing potential incentives for frivolous blackouts

PG&E CEO Bill Johnson apologized to customers at a Thursday press conference for both the outages and the company’s site crashing during critical hours before the blackouts, leaving many without access to vital information.

But Johnson also argued that the utility had no choice in the face of fire risks posed by dry weather and powerful winds.

Meanwhile, on the eve of the shutoffs, PG&E top executives partied in wine country on the company dime, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Johnson apologized, again, and called the move “tone deaf.”

PG&E is still maintaining resource centers in affected areas to distribute things like clean water and charging stations to those still without power.