Power will be restored after the dangerous conditions have passed and once safety checks have been done for all the lines in that area. If there are a large number of people who have had their power shut off, then it may take multiple days before PG&E gets the power turned back on for everyone.
If you experience a loss due to extended power outages — such as the food in your fridge going bad — you can file a claim with the utility.
Why are these PG&E public safety power shutoffs happening?
California's 2020 wildfire season was the state's biggest on record, with more than 4 million acres burned.
The previous record was set just two years ago and included the deadliest wildfire in state history — the Camp Fire — which swept through the community of Paradise and killed 85 people.
That fire was started by PG&E power lines amid strong winds and tinder-dry conditions. To guard against new wildfires and new liability, in 2019 the utility began preemptive power shutoffs when conditions are exceptionally dangerous.
Also in 2019, the California Public Utilities Commission approved rules for how the state's major utilities should preemptively shut off the power during times of high fire danger. However, some utilities, such as San Diego Gas and Electric, had been shutting off the power to help prevent fires for years earlier.
In 2020, Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon said the utility should find other ways to prevent its equipment from starting fires in windy conditions instead of planned outages.
"PG&E's had three years, and they've been working fairly diligently, to put in durable, resilient transmission and distribution lines, and they have not completed that task," she said.
How are shutoffs different from rolling blackouts?
Sometimes Californians also lose power because of strains on the system. The California Independent System Operator (ISO) manages the delicate balance of power supply and demand on the state’s electrical grid and can order utilities to cut power to customers as it did
“It’s one big interconnected system,” said John Phipps, an operations director with California ISO. “Energy being generated at one plant can feed homes completely on the other end of the state."
For example, Phipps said, "if Diablo Canyon had problems in Northern California, that could impact San Diego."
This story has been updated. Check the PG&E resource page for the latest updates.