OAKLAND, Calif. - Restorations have begun for some of the 738,000 PG&E customers who lost power across the Bay Area and other parts of Northen California. At a Thursday evening news conference, the utility said 31% of customers had power restored. By 11 p.m. those figures improved with 426,000 customers back in business and 312,000 still in the dark.
PG&E says improvements in weather conditions in some areas affected by the Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) allowed for safety inspections, repairs, and restoration.
The company's President and CEO Bill Johnson apologized for the hardship, but said it was the "right call."
"We did not deliver on the commitment this time. Our website crashed several times. Our maps are inconsistent, perhaps incorrect. Our call centers were overloaded. Put simply, we were not adequately prepared to support the operational event," Johnson said from the utility's headquarters in San Francisco on Thursday.
"We have found multiple cases of damage or hazards" caused by heavy winds, including fallen branches that came in contact with overhead lines, said Sumeet Singh, a vice president for the utility. "If they were energized, they could've ignited."
The utility says there were no reports of fires related to PG&E equipment or its power lines in any of the impact zones.
Governor Newsom spoke at the State Office of Emergency Services. He said the state will work to hold the utility accountable to modernize it's equipment saying, "This can't be the new normal."
The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday blasted the utility during their regularly scheduled meeting. CPUC President Marybel Batjer called the way PG&E has been managing the PSPS "unacceptable."
"The impact to the communities, the individual people, to the commerce of our state, the safety of our people, has been less than exemplary. This cannot be the new normal. We can't accept it as the new normal and we won't," said Batjer.
All clears have been declared in the following areas to begin inspections and assess if the equipment is safe to resume electric delivery services: Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado(Partial All Clear), Mariposa, Merced, Monterey, Placer(Partial All Clear), San Joaquin, San Mateo(Partial All Clear), Santa Clara, Santa Cruz (Partial All Clear), Stanislaus, Tuolumne.
Officials say once an area has been given the all-clear, it can take up to 24 to 48 hours to restore power. They hope to have electricity restored to most customers by this weekend.
Contra Costa County officials said PG&E estimates complete restoration of power to all affected customers in the area by 6 p.m. on Friday.
PG&E crews will visually inspect power lines to look for potential weather-related damage to the lines, poles and towers. This is done by vehicle, foot and air.
In Sonoma County thousands of customers remained without power Thursday night.
"Last time we had this event a couple of weeks ago, there were some issues with communication," said Meissa Valle with Sonoma County Emergency Services. "Counties have communicated with (PG&E) and expressed those concerns and provided feedback. We are working with them to streamline their communication."
The utility had 45 helicopters on hand watching for overhead conditions and more than 6,000 crewmembers ready to restore power when the dry and windy weather conditions died down.
Cal Fire also monitored the situation and had already responded to over 200 ignitions throughout the state, according to a CPUC official.
Bay City News' Daniel Montes contributed to this report.