PG&E expects to restore power by Friday night

Thousands of PG&E customers are still without power, but the utility says it expects to restore electricity on Friday to all homes and businesses in northern California.

The company had warned that 53,000 customers in 24 counties across the state might see their power intentionally cut to reduce the risk of sparking wildfires. In the end, the so-called public safety power shutoffs affected 41,000 customers, many of them in North Bay counties.

This comes at a time when the National Weather Service extended the red flag warning until 6 p.m. because of the combination of soaring temperatures, low humidity and powerful winds. The combination of conditions makes it easy for wildfires to spread.

A heat advisory is also in effect until 9 p.m.

The restoration process began Thursday after parts of Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties were given the all-clear sign. Crews had been waiting for gusty winds to settle down and other weather conditions to improve before attempting to re-energizing power lines.

"It's been one thing after another. It's like we can't catch our breath," said teacher Sarah Amador in Calistoga after a long night without power, referring to the Glass and LNU fires, which had burned areas near her this year.

To relieve the strain on customers like Amador who were forced to go without electricity, PG&E had opened centers where people could charge cellphones and tap into free WiFi.

PG&E said it will have 1,000 workers on the ground inspecting power lines and other equipment along its vast network. The company will also udeploy helicopters.