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NorCal Winds Subside. Getting The Power Back On Will Take A Little Longer

April Ehrlich/JPR News
AK Alam, owner of Duffy's Liquors in Anderson, California, stands behind the counter of his store despite the power blackout caused by Pacific Gas & Electric's decision to cut power to much of Northern California to avoid sparking wildfires.

Pacific Gas and Electric officials say winds have died down enough to begin safety inspections of its equipment. Still, while the utility says power has been restored in Humboldt, Siskiyou and Trinity Counties, electricity remains off in other parts of northern California, including Anderson, south of Redding in Shasta County. 

A PG&E helicopter slowly circles through the sky as its workers check on electrical lines from above.

The investor-owned utility chose to shut down its electrical equipment during strong, dry winds over the past few days to keep its power lines and transmission equipment from sparking a wildfire.

Now that the winds have diminished, the company says it will turn on power only after it has inspected all of its equipment for safety.

Meanwhile, the people of Anderson are trying their best to get by without electricity. Richard Bailey says he has an old generator, but he can’t run it at night for safety reasons.

“Well, I have a breathing machine at night," he says. "So obviously I’m not sleeping. And it’s affecting my health really bad.”

Still, Bailey says he doesn’t blame PG&E for shutting off power. He says he would rather have no electricity than have electrical lines spark another deadly wildfire. 

Business is taking a hit from the outages, too.  While most Anderson businesses remained closed during the blackout, Duffy’s Liquors kept its doors open. But owner AK Alam says people aren’t buying much more than cigarettes.

“People who like beer, they like cold beer," he says. "People don’t like hot beer. So we are losing like that.” 

Alam estimates that he’ll lose thousands of dollars in sales by the time the power comes back on.

Facing criticism of the power shutdown, PG&E CEO and President Bill Johnson said he recognized the costs and dusruption the shutdown caused, Nonetheless, he told a press conference Thursday evening that, given the risks posed by hot, dry winds, he stood by the decision.

"We faced a choice here between hardship on everyone or safety," he said. "And we chose safety."

And despite the costs and disruption, he said, safety prevailed.

"That's really a good outcome," Johnson said. Nobody got hurt. No fire, no destruction. That's good."

PG&E reported late Thursday that more than half of the customers impacted by its shutoff have had their power restored. About 426,000 out of a total 738,000 customers have been restored. That includes full restoration in Humboldt, Siskiyou and Trinity counties. About 312,000 customers remain without power.

April Ehrlich is JPR content partner at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Prior to joining OPB, she was a regional reporter at Jefferson Public Radio where she won a National Edward R. Murrow Award.
Liam Moriarty has been covering news in the Pacific Northwest for three decades. He served two stints as JPR News Director and retired full-time from JPR at the end of 2021. Liam now edits and curates the news on JPR's website and digital platforms.