An extreme and unprecedented weekend experiences central and northern California, where up to one million people could run out of power as a preventive measure in the face of the rising fires that ravage the region.
Following the announcement by Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) that it was preparing to cut electricity to more than 900,000 users this weekend, many fear having to face the flames in the middle of the blackout, an experience that some They already lived this week in Sonoma County and they describe it as "terrifying."
And the worst part is that the so-called “devil winds” are expected to increase on Saturday night and remain strong until Monday morning, a period longer than the windstorms that fed the three most catastrophic fires in The history of California.RELATED
“In the mountains of Santa Ana and San Gabriel we have the wind that comes from the deserts, that rises and dries but then goes down channeled through these canyons, intensifying and favoring it to arrive with very high temperatures by rubbing the mountain and helping those fires grow, ”explained Univision meteorologist Albert Martínez.
"This is definitely an event we call historical and extreme," said David King, a meteorologist at the Monterey office of the National Weather Service, cited by the Los Angeles Times. "What makes this event really substantial and historic is the amount of time these winds are going to remain," he explained.
The area of greatest risk includes the Bay Area and other points to the north, including the foothills of northern Sierra Nevada and the North Coast region of California, said Daniel Swain, UCLA climate scientist and the National Atmospheric Research Center , cited by the same newspaper.
It is particularly unusual for the north coast of the state, which is usually more humid, to remain so dry at this time of year.
Massive and prolonged blackouts
Millions of Californians are preparing to return to darkness after the state's largest utility company warned that it could cut the power supply for the third time in recent weeks.
Pacific Gas & Electric has notified 940,000 homes and businesses in 36 counties throughout the San Francisco Bay Area that they could run out of power for 48 hours or more.
The blackouts are carried out as a precaution against the winds, which this weekend could reach up to 85 mph, a record figure, according to the National Weather Service. These winds knock down power lines and cause fires, which they then feed with their gusts.
This new batch of blackouts comes at a time when firefighters fight three devastating fires in northern and southern California.
A fire on Thursday destroyed at least six houses in the Santa Clarita area, near Los Angeles, and resulted in evacuation orders for up to 50,000 residents, although some were allowed to return to their homes Friday night after that the winds of Santa Ana began to diminish.
To the north, firefighters battle a fire near Geyserville in Sonoma County trying to control it before the fierce "devil winds" return. As of Friday night the fire had burned 49 buildings, including 21 houses, and razed 37 square miles (96 square kilometers) of the wine region.
The strong winds this weekend could knock down the watering planes, disperse the thrown fire retardant and drive coals far ahead of the flames to generate new fires, the head of the division of Cal Fire, Jonathan Cox.
"You can't fight a fire that goes ahead of itself a quarter of a mile, half a mile, in some cases a mile ahead of itself," he added.
Destructive fire: vegetation, vineyards and ashes made by powerful fires in California (photos)
Thousands of evacuees throughout the state
This Saturday, Sonoma County issued a mandatory evacuation order for the community of Geyserville and the towns of Healdsburg and Windsor, which affects about 50,000 people.
“The Kincade Fire has crossed Highway 128 near Moody Lane and is heading west. If you are in Geyserville, leave now, ”says the evacuation order posted on the Sonoma County website.
At a last-minute press conference broadcast on Facebook Live, Officer Custodio López, of the California Highway Patrol, asked the population to follow the instructions and proceed to evacuation immediately, if possible before 4: 00 pm, when it is estimated that the power outages can begin.
This Friday, another 50,000 were evacuated to the south of the state, in Los Angeles County, because of the Tick Fire in Santa Clarita. The schools were closed on Friday, but this Saturday evacuation orders were lifted in several areas and its inhabitants have been allowed to return, in an organized and supervised manner, according to the county sheriff's office.
In areas of Baker Canyon Road, from Sierra Highway, north of Vasquez Canyon Road and on Tick Canyon Road, from Abelia Road to Summit Knoll Road, the evacuation order remains active.
The governor criticizes the “greed and mismanagement” of PG&E
The blackouts have acquired a political nuance and prominent figures have directly attacked the poor performance of the PG&E company, which after the chaos of the first supply cuts has promised that this time they would do it in a more coordinated manner and giving detailed information to the population.
The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, condemned "greed and mismanagement" that led to this point in the history of California, in which thousands of people have to face raging fires in the dark.
In other Tweet, the governor said Californians are furious, as is he and announced the launch of a $ 75 million fund to help communities deal with power outages.
Newsom declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles and Sonoma counties due to forest fires.
This Wednesday, PG&E closed distribution lines that transport energy directly to homes and businesses in the Geyserville area before the fire began, but kept electricity flowing through larger transmission lines that, according to the company, were built to withstand stronger winds.
However, the utility company reported a power outage in its 230 kilovolt transmission line at 9:20 p.m. in the area where the Kincade fire started, so authorities are investigating whether a failure in the equipment may have caused the ignition.
Private firefighters: a new business in California?
According to a report from The New York Times, some wealthy families in the state are not fighting the fires that affect their properties, but instead hire private companies to complement the work of state and local firefighters.
Insurance companies such as Chubb, USAA and Safeco, usually provide services to mitigate fires to their clients in risk areas, but they are not usually services to put out flames but to secure homes and install irrigation systems, with gels and substances that block the fire.
But given the growing number of fires, which with climate change promises to increase, several companies are directly addressing the fires, fighting the flames in a private fire service.
According to the Times, fire fighting from the private sector is not new in the United States, as government agencies, including the National Forest Service, have hired private teams to fight and prevent forest fires since at least the 1980s.
What has changed is that more and more the services of these companies are hired by individual clients and homeowners.