A customer pushes a shopping cart with batteries and flashlights
© Bloomberg / David Paul Morris
A customer pushes a shopping cart with batteries and flashlights in a Home Depot Inc. parking lot in Calif., on Oct. 8, 2019.
In an unprecedented move, nearly a million people have had their power cut in Northern California. The state's largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric or PG&E, is trying to prevent its wires from sparking wildfires, but that move is sparking anger.

The power outages began early Wednesday as California residents loaded up on essentials for what they say is a "man-made disaster."

PG&E has been forced to shut off electricity to customers because a forecast of high winds and bone dry heat is expected to put pressure on its aging and faulty infrastructure. It is a desperate attempt to avoid what happened in November when sparks from power lines ignited the fire that tore through the town of Paradise, killing 86.

Ron Blasingame lost his power at 2 a.m. and could be in the dark for days.

"This is ridiculous! They are a public utility. How do they pass on their mistakes to us?" he said.



Up to 34 California counties are experiencing a rolling blackout that began at midnight and will continue throughout the evening. By 6 p.m., more than 800,000 people will be off the grid.

Dermot Coll is keeping his bar open for a few more hours with a generator but anticipates losing a lot of money.

"I'm gonna tell you $30,000," he said.

Stanford economist Michael Wara estimates turning off the power could cost as much as $2.6 billion.

The economic impacts vary a lot, depending on who is blacked out what kind of customer — whether it's a factory or supermarket or house.

At a hardware store in Sonoma, people have been waiting in line to be escorted by flashlight. It's not business as usual for a state confronted by a growing wildfire season. Winds are expected to be their strongest Thursday.