Amid surging coronavirus cases and struggling hospitals, many Californians are now facing the prospect of power outages as utilities companies try to mitigate the risk of wildfires during a period of unusually dry, hot and windy weather that is uncommon in winter months .
More than 284,000 customers could have their power shut off to lower the risk of wildfires spurred on from a strong Santa Ana wind event, Southern California Edison warned Monday.
The wind event is expected to last through Tuesday night and feature strong gusts of up to 80 miles per hour, the National Weather Service said in a statement.
Utilities companies often shut off power when conditions are poor because “there will be an increased risk of fire ignitions due to downed trees and power lines, along with a threat of rapid fire spread and extreme fire behavior,” the service said.
2020 was California’s worst wildfire season on record. A combination of dry conditions, high temperatures and unfavorable weather conditions led to large areas of the state being scorched and many were left without power as companies tried to reduce the risk of power equipment inducing more fires. While blackouts may be common in summer, they are rare in winter; Normally, they “would not be under consideration, but this winter has been anything but normal,” PG&E meteorologists say on the utility’s website. Five of the 20 largest California wildfires occurred in 2020 as well as six of the 20 most destructive wildfires.
4.2 million acres. That’s how much of California burned in wildfires during 2020. The state fire department says this is more than 4% of the state’s land.