Southern California Blackouts Expand as Winds Raise Fire Risk

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More than 75,000 homes and businesses in Southern California are in the dark as dry, gusty winds continue to blow across the state, raising the risk of wildfires in the drought-stricken region.

Edison International had cut electricity to about 60,000 customers as of early Tuesday, and warned that outages may spread to another 147,000 homes and businesses. Sempra Energy’s San Diego utility has shut off power to 15,000 customers, about 45,000 people based on the size of the average household.

Wind warnings are in effect until Tuesday evening, with gusts reaching 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour north and east of Los Angeles, according to the National Weather Service. While the threat isn’t as severe Wednesday, a large area of Southern California will still face an elevated risk.

Utilities have taken to preemptively cutting power to prevent downed lines from triggering fires. More than three-quarters of California is in drought.

More than 9 million people live in areas where conditions could become critical through Tuesday, the U.S. Storm Prediction Center said. Low humidity dries out plants, making them easy to catch fire from any spark, and winds can then quickly drive blazes across the landscape.

Two fires in the state have ripped through more than 8,400 acres, including the Bond Fire that’s been burning since last week and is about 70% contained.

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