The Pacific Gas & Electric Company, California's biggest utility, has been shutting off electricity for users since early Wednesday, in an attempt to avoid wildfires started by downed power lines. More than 500,000 customers in Northern and Central California are without power, and there were 300,000 additional outages planned for late Wednesday. The utility expects that close to 2 million people in 34 counties will ultimately be affected, some for multiple days. Several recent wildfires, including the devastating Camp Fire last year that killed 85 people, have been blamed on equipment malfunctions. Winds with 35 to 45 mph gusts are forecast for Thursday, and meteorologist Steve Anderson with the National Weather Service's Bay Area office told The Associated Press PG&E needed to shut down electricity before the high winds arrive.

Scroll for 5 things you
need to know now