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PG&E pulls plug in North Bay

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More cities face a potentially dark future this week

PG&E Power Pole Replacement Photo by Jane Tyska/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Update: As anticipated, PG&E began shutting off power to parts of Napa, Sonoma, and Marin counties on Wednesday. But the utility has significantly scaled back the potential effects of the shutoff, announcing that Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties will not face any outages.

Update: PG&E now cautions that almost the entire Bay Area may face outages this week, as the number of counties in Northern California possibly affected climbed to 25 on Monday.

By the utility’s current estimates, some 12,200 households in Alameda county are within possible shutoff areas, and more than 23,200 in Contra Costa County, 23,400 in Marin County, 11,180 in Napa, and nearly 3,000 in Santa Clara County.

Only 70 homes are on the watchlist in San Mateo County.

As usual, San Francisco is the only Bay Area locale not facing a potential shutdown.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) says that it may continue its unpopular policy of shutting of the power in fire-prone areas this month, with some North Bay tracts on the watchlist for possible induced blackouts this week.

A “strong offshore wind event” forecast for Wednesday and Thursday has made the utility cast a wary eye on its power lines, with gusts up to 55 miles per hour expected in some parts of Northern California.

Some 250,000 households in 19 counties face the possibility of an outage in excess of 24 hours this week, including Napa, Sonoma, and Solano counties.

“Other parts of the Bay Area are not expected to be included” says the company, although there is always the possibility that the blackout will expand, as several of the company’s October outages happened on a larger scale than initially projected.

Those in possibly affected areas should will receive warnings from PG&E on Monday morning; however, in the past the utility has struggled to get timely notice to every household before planned outages commenced.

PG&E continues to defend the shutoff practice as a necessary firefighting tool, but public officials still criticize the company, alleging that lax public safety standards in the past led to the current predicament.

In the latest salvo, SF-based State Senator Scott Wiener proposed last week that the state take over PG&E, turning it from a private, investor-owned enterprise into a pubic utility.

“PG&E’s model, focused on Wall Street and profits, doesn’t work,” Wiener says.

Wiener will introduce a bill to wrest PG&E away from private hands in 2020.

Touting the supposed benefits of its October 9 blackout (the largest so far), PG&E last week claimed that the outages prevented fires stemming from 116 cases of wind-related damage to its equipment, including gusts up to 77 miles per hour in some places.