It has been an arid spring in California, and that's causing alarm with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. executives who have said this week they will need more frequent power cuts to customers in Northern California to prevent wildfires.
PG&E's chief risk officer Sumeet Singh told WSJ that California's dry weather conditions could result in more rolling blackouts this year than last year. The company has trimmed trees away from powerlines and inspected the grid as the wildfire season began earlier this month.
June is typically the month the wildfire season in California begins. The state is already battling an extreme drought, and the first heat wave of the season hit last week. The risks of another heat wave are increasing for next week.
The hottest and most fire-prone months are nearing as a second heat wave of the season could arrive as early as next week.
How the season turns out may depend on the immediate climate in the state. Extreme heat and drought are several factors that may produce dry fuels and eventually spark fires.
"The fuel moisture levels ... are about a month or two months ahead of schedule," Strenfel told Sacramento Bee. "They're at a state where they're typically this dry in mid-July, and we're seeing them in June. We're a month ahead of schedule, if not two months, in terms of fire danger."
Singh told WSJ, "the big, big variable that's unpredictable here is the wind. But in all the forecasts that we've done, we do not see ourselves getting back to the same kind of [power shut-off] events like we saw in 2019."
Already, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared 41 of the state's 58 counties are in a drought, with much of the state in an "extreme drought" and portions in an "exceptional drought."
The 2020 California fire season, the worst on record, burned more than 4 million acres, is still fresh in everyone's mind. Newsom has allocated millions of dollars in new funding to thwart fires this year.
The 2021 wildfire season could be more severe than last year, which means PG&E may have to issue more powercuts to thwart fires.