It was a once-unthinkable move: purposely shutting off power to millions of people and plunging a major metropolitan area into darkness.
And yet, on Wednesday, utility PG&E Corp. began cutting electricity to almost 800,000 California homes and businesses — representing roughly 2.4 million people — to prevent wildfires as high winds are forecast to whip through the state. The outages will hit 34 counties, including much of the San Francisco Bay area, triggering a scramble by residents to prepare for what may be days without power.
For PG&E, forced into bankruptcy by devastating fires that its equipment has ignited over the past two years, there is no alternative. The shutoff is a key strategy for preventing its power lines from sparking another deadly — and costly — conflagration. It’s largely unprecedented. Never before have California utilities intentionally put so many people out of power for their own safety. Nor have they darkened heavily populated cities in addition to rural areas.
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