PG&E apologizes for California blackouts: 'We were not prepared'

By Nicholas Sakelaris
A number of communities in the San Francisco Bay Area were affected by the planned blackouts. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
A number of communities in the San Francisco Bay Area were affected by the planned blackouts. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Pacific Gas & Electric CEO Bill Johnson has apologized to customers for how the utility handled its planned blackouts this week, which cut electricity to millions of California residents as a fire mitigation measure.

The utility began the blackouts first thing Wednesday and they continued Thursday, as officials were concerned strong winds in the weather forecast could damage power lines and start a wildfire. Conditions improved Thursday, allowing PG&E to restore power to some areas. Some parts of Northern and Central California were still without power early Friday.


"PG&E crews began conducting safety patrols and inspections where power had been turned off for safety," PG&E said in a statement. "In some areas where patrols have been completed, we are beginning to re-energize the power lines. Crews will ensure transmission and distribution lines are free of damage and safe to energize before power can be restored. Inspections will take place during daylight hours."

It added power is being restored to San Jose and Morgan Hill, and city officials in Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda reported PG&E crews were restoring power there.

The utility, however, said outages could last for a few more days in some locations.


"We faced a choice between hardship on everyone or safety and we chose safety," Johnson said at a news conference late Thursday. "I do apologize for the hardship this has caused, but I think we made the right call on safety."

PG&E reported several technical problems with the process, which covered dozens of counties statewide.

"Our website crashed several times. Our maps are inconsistent and maybe incorrect," Johnson added. "Our call centers were overloaded. To put it simply, we were not adequately prepared."

PG&E infrastructure was blamed for several wildfires in recent years, including the Camp Fire last fall -- the largest wildland fire in state history that killed more than 80 people. The utility agreed last month to pay an $11 billion insurance settlement.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the proactive power outages are a result of "greed and neglect" by PG&E, which he accused of neglecting its infrastructure for years.

"What has occurred in the last 48 hours is unacceptable," he told reporters Thursday.

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