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PG&E Restores Power After Massive Outage, but Can We Ever Depend on Them To Keep the Lights On?

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PG&E had restored power to all but 7,387 Bay Area customers just before noon Tuesday. That number is fairly impressive when you consider that about 140,000 customers across the region were without power at a single point Sunday afternoon.

PG&E spokesman Jason King said Monday that somewhere around 646,000 Bay Area customers lost power at different times in the day, marking the service impact caused by a storm since 2009. 

The massive atmospheric river storm that swept across the area Sunday caused countless trees, power lines and power poles to topple, with obvious results. 

A power line leans “precariously” over the road near Lawrence Expressway and Prospect Avenue in San Jose, Calif. at the border of Saratoga on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. (Courtesy of Santa Clara County Fire Department)

However, it was just a little more than a week ago when a much weaker rain system took out power to more than 35,000 regional customers. About 11,000 people were still in the dark on Oct. 17, the morning after fairly light rain wreaked havoc on the lines. PG&E representatives then blamed dust accumulated through months of intense drought that led to short circuiting at dozens of power transformers and electrical lines.

Thankfully, utility crews made quick work of restoring power in this latest outage. 

But what does it say about PG&E’s response to recent criticism over the utility’s aging and neglected infrastructure if major outages occur in both small and huge storms. The utility is on the hook for sparking several of the state’s largest wildfires in recent years, and their go-to solution for that issue (and liability) is to roll out Public Safety Power Shutoffs ahead of major wind events.

With widespread PSPS events in the hot months and pervasive failures in the wet months, it’s beginning to feel like waking up to power is a crapshoot, especially on days we need power most.

People can check up on current and planned outages here.


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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.

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