lights out
October 9, 2019

Pacific Gas & Electric, 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 are 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 gusts of 35 to 45 miles per hour are forecast for Thursday, and meteorologist Steve Anderson with the National Weather Service's Bay Area office told The Associated Press that PG&E needed to shut down electricity before the high winds arrive. This excuse didn't fly with Joseph Pokorski in Sonoma, who told AP it was "unreasonable" to cut power without winds. "They're ... closing everything down so they don't get sued," he said. "They don't trim the trees, so we suffer." There has been a run on grocery and hardware stores, where people are picking up everything from nonperishable food items to flashlights; gas stations have also been swamped. Catherine Garcia

July 23, 2019

Venezuela has once again been plunged into darkness, with a massive blackout leaving most of the country without electricity.

It is believed 19 of 24 states are affected, with the blackout hitting Caracas during rush hour Monday night, shutting down the subway system and causing heavy traffic jams. Government authorities claim the opposition conducted an "electromagnetic attack" against dams in southern Venezuela; during a huge blackout in March, President Nicolás Maduro blamed the U.S., accusing the country of sponsoring an attack on Guri Dam, which provides nearly 80 percent of Venezuela's electricity.

Venezuela is experiencing food and medicine shortages and extreme inflation, and opposition leader Juan Guaidó has called for protests across the country on Tuesday. Guaidó and other opponents say blackouts are proof Maduro has not invested in the country's infrastructure, and its electrical grid is in serious jeopardy. Catherine Garcia

June 16, 2019

Argentine President Mauricio Macri on Sunday vowed to fully investigate the massive electrical failure that plunged Argentina and Uruguay into darkness.

Both countries share an electrical grid, and when the electricity was cut off, tens of millions of people were without power. Parts of Chile and Paraguay were also affected. The lights went out on Sunday morning, and by Sunday evening, officials said more than 80 percent of customers in Argentina and 88 percent in Uruguay had power again.

Gustavo Lopetegui, Argentina's energy minister, said the electrical system is "robust," and while "we're not ruling out any possibility ... we don't think it is down to a cyber attack." Argentine media reports that officials are linking the outage to a failure in the transmission of electricity from a hydroelectric dam, BBC News reports. Catherine Garcia

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