FILE - In this Oct. 11, 2017 file photo, a Pacific Gas & Electric crew works at restoring power along the Old Redwood Highway in Santa Rosa, Calif. Northern California's biggest utility has taken the unprecedented step of cutting electricity for tens of thousands of customers in an attempt to prevent wildfires amid rising winds and official warnings on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, of extreme fire danger. Pacific Gas & Electric began turning off the lights in California's wine country north of San Francisco and Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento Sunday night. The utility said at least 87,000 customers had their power turned off and that more could be put in the dark depending on the weather. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

California utilities say wind-driven outages still possible

October 15, 2018 - 11:19 pm

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California utilities were restoring electricity after intentionally cutting it to tens of thousands of people because of extreme fire danger but high winds projected to sweep the area into Tuesday morning could see more outages.

Winds strong enough to topple trees and down power lines killed one woman Monday and brought a renewed threat of fire to parched California scant months after wildfires devastated the north.

In an unprecedented move, Pacific Gas & Electric company began cutting power Sunday night in Northern California. About 60,000 customers were affected. The utility expected to have about 70 percent of them back in service before dawn Tuesday.

However, the National Weather Service issued an advisory that winds gusting up to 50 mph (81 kph) at times would continue over foothill and mountain areas east and north of Sacramento, including the Sierras, Shasta County and other rural areas.

Pacific Gas & Electric previously announced its plan to shut off power preemptively after authorities blamed its power lines for sparking some of California's most destructive wildfires.

The utility expects to pay billions of dollars in wildfire damages and has sought ways to limit its liability through the courts and Legislature.

In the south, San Diego Gas & Electric turned off the juice Monday morning to more than 300 customers in foothill areas near Cleveland National Forest, where multiple blazes have scorched large swaths of land in recent years. Electricity was restored by evening after crews had checked out the lines.

"We have contract firefighters with them at the same time. If they determine that the lines are clear, then we turn the power back on," spokeswoman Colleen Windsor said.

"There's a possibility" of more safety shutdowns depending on the wind, she added.

The weather service predicted gusty winds continuing into Tuesday from Santa Barbara southward. Gusts of up to 45 mph in valleys, canyons and foothills were expected from the fall Santa Anas, which are hot, sustained winds that blow out of the state's desert-like region in the east to the ocean.

Southern California Edison hadn't intentionally cut power for safety reasons but spokeswoman Susan Cox said more than 27,000 customers remained without power late Monday night.

The utility warned some parts of its vast territory that there would still be a chance of a safety shutdown if necessary.

Only one death was attributed to the winds. Dennet O. Bermas, 34, of Tustin was killed Monday when a 40-foot (12-meter) eucalyptus tree toppled onto her car as she was pulling out of her apartment carport, authorities said.

"I saw the car crushed," neighbor Danny McCabe told KCAL-TV. "I checked for a pulse in her throat and I couldn't feel any."