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PG&E Starts Restoring Power After Latest Deliberate Blackout

Mark Chediak

(Bloomberg) -- PG&E Corp. is restoring power to tens of thousands of Californians that went dark early Wednesday in an attempt by the company to keep power lines from starting fires.

The bankrupt utility giant had begun returning service late Wednesday, the San Francisco-based company said at a press conference. It had earlier plunged as many as 150,000 people into darkness amid high winds that threatened to knock down live wires. As of 8 p.m. New York time, about 120,000 remained powerless.

Improving weather conditions allowed the company to reduce the size of the blackout that, at one point, threatened to leave 800,000 people in the dark.

PG&E’s recent blackouts have provoked widespread outrage in California, triggering a state investigation and intensifying calls for a government takeover of the power giant. The company has carried out nine shutoffs this year alone. It’s taking extreme measures to prevent blazes from breaking out after its equipment ignited deadly fires in Northern California in 2017 and 2018. In January, it filed for Chapter 11 to deal with an estimated $30 billion in wildfire liabilities.

The National Weather Service said it’s still expecting gusts of up to 55 miles (90 kilometers) per hour in part of Northern California until 7 a.m. local time Thursday.

Wednesday’s shutoffs paled in comparison to the mass blackouts PG&E carried out last month, which plunged millions of people into darkness for days.

Read More: PG&E CEO Sees Government Takeover as a Tall Order for California

California has had little rain for months, and more than 81% of the state is abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The parched plants and soils, along with high winds, make fall one of the worst times for fires in the state.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Chediak in San Francisco at mchediak@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tina Davis at tinadavis@bloomberg.net, Joe Ryan, Will Wade

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