PG&E restoring power to thousands in California

FILE - In this Oct. 31, 2019, file photo, a firefighter battles the Maria Fire in Somis, Calif. The CEO of the nation's largest utility is expected to face angry California lawmakers over the company's decision to turn off power for millions of people to prevent its outdated equipment from starting wildfires. Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. CEO Bill Johnson is scheduled to testify during a Legislative oversight hearing on Monday, Nov. 18, at the state Capitol. Lawmakers have repeatedly criticized the bankrupt company for leaving millions of people in the dark for days at a time during dry, windy weather events in October. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, Fire)
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Pacific Gas & Electric began restoring power Thursday to some of the 120,000 people it intentionally blacked out to ease the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

The utility said about 10,000 customers — or 25,000 people — had power restored and the rest should have their lights back on by evening.

The nation’s largest utility cut power Wednesday in parts of 10 Northern California counties because of concerns that dry, windy weather could throw debris into power lines, causing them to spark and ignite tinder-dry brush.

PG&E equipment has caused some of California’s most destructive wildfires in recent years.

Higher humidity, cloud cover and even some rain showers this week in the Sierra Nevada helped reduce the current risk, said Scott Strenfel, principal meteorologist for PG&E.

“All of these factors kind of broke in all of our favor,” he said.

PG&E initially planned to black out about 375,000 customers.

But with winds tapering off, PG&E said its meteorologists declared a weather all-clear, allowing its crews to inspect and, if necessary, repair power lines.

PG&E’s widespread outages in the past two months — one of which affected some 2.5 million people — may have prevented some fires but they also ignited criticism from lawmakers and inconvenienced residents.

“This is terribly frustrating and terribly disturbing if you’re on the receiving end of this. We get that,” company CEO Andy Vesey said Wednesday.

The utility is always trying to limit outages, he said.

“We’ve learned a lot of lessons” from previous cutoffs, he said.

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