Dangerously windy weather sweeping through the state brought power outages to Northern California as the state’s largest utility staged blackouts designed to prevent catastrophic wildfires.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. on Wednesday began rolling blackouts stretching from the Sierra foothills in the northeast to portions of the San Francisco Bay Area. A couple of counties kept their power until after midnight.

The blackouts impact a half-million people — or nearly 180,000 customers — in 15 counties, and PG&E warned that a second round of outages could occur over the weekend when winds return to the region.

A Pacific Gas & Electric Co. crew trips a segment of power lines in Santa Rosa, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, that will make it easier to restore power. The power was shut off by PG&E due to the high fire danger. (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP)
A Pacific Gas & Electric Co. crew trips a segment of power lines in Santa Rosa, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, that will make it easier to restore power. The power was shut off by PG&E due to the high fire danger. (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP)

In the south, where hot, dry Santa Ana winds were expected to hit Thursday, Southern California Edison warned that it might black out about 308,000 customers — perhaps 750,000 people — depending on the forecast.

San Diego Gas & Electric warned of power shutoffs to about 24,000 customers.

The utilities have said the precautionary blackouts are designed to keep winds that could gust to 60 mph (97 kph) or more from knocking branches into power lines or toppling them, sparking wildfires.

Workers at Rescue for Pets Sake thrift store move their items inside as they close early after losing power Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 23, 2019, in downtown Grass Valley, Calif. Lights went out across large portions of Northern California on Wednesday, as the state's largest utility began its second massive blackout in two weeks, citing the return of dangerous fire weather. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)
Workers at Rescue for Pets Sake thrift store move their items inside as they close early after losing power Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 23, 2019, in downtown Grass Valley, Calif. Lights went out across large portions of Northern California on Wednesday, as the state’s largest utility began its second massive blackout in two weeks, citing the return of dangerous fire weather. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)

Electrical equipment was blamed for setting several fires in recent years that killed scores of people and burned thousands of homes.

“We understand the hardship caused by these shutoffs,” PG&E CEO Bill Johnson said Wednesday. “But we also understand the heartbreak and devastation caused by catastrophic wildfires.”

The latest outage comes two weeks after PG&E shut down the power for several days to about 2 million people in northern and central California.

Treated Nevada Irrigation District water leaves a pumping plant off of Loma Rica Road in Grass Valley, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, headed for Alta Sierra and Lake of the Pines residents. NID generators have provided seamless water delivery to customers amid the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. shutdown. The outages will last about 48 hours, the utility said ,but its seven-day forecast shows an elevated likelihood of a shut-off across a much larger portion of Northern California for the weekend, when heavy winds are expected to return. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)
Treated Nevada Irrigation District water leaves a pumping plant off of Loma Rica Road in Grass Valley, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, headed for Alta Sierra and Lake of the Pines residents. NID generators have provided seamless water delivery to customers amid the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. shutdown. The outages will last about 48 hours, the utility said ,but its seven-day forecast shows an elevated likelihood of a shut-off across a much larger portion of Northern California for the weekend, when heavy winds are expected to return. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)

The current outages will last about 48 hours, the utility said. But its seven-day forecast shows a likelihood of another planned blackout across a much larger area. The timing wasn’t clear but it could start as early as Saturday, when even heavier winds are expected to move through.

“This could be the strongest wind event of the season, unfortunately,” PG&E meteorologist Scott Strenfel said.

Strenfel called the current wind event a “California-wide phenomenon.” Conditions should begin easing in the northern part of the state around midday Thursday, when crews will begin inspecting lines to make sure they’re safe to re-energize.

Maria's restaurant workers work by battery powered lamps in the kitchen following the power shutdown, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Grass Valley, calif. Lights went out across large portions of Northern California on Wednesday, as the state's largest utility began its second massive blackout in two weeks, citing the return of dangerous fire weather. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)
Maria’s restaurant workers work by battery powered lamps in the kitchen following the power shutdown, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Grass Valley, calif. Lights went out across large portions of Northern California on Wednesday, as the state’s largest utility began its second massive blackout in two weeks, citing the return of dangerous fire weather. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)

That’s when Santa Ana winds were expected to begin whipping up in the south.

The small city of Calistoga, in the Napa Valley, known for its hot springs and wineries, was among those hit by Wednesday’s outage.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Michael Dunsford, owner of the 18-room Calistoga Inn, which has rented two powerful generators for the month at a cost of $5,000. Like many, he felt the outages need to be better managed, better targeted and less expansive.

Robinson Enterprises Gas Station in downtown Grass Valley, Calif., sits vacated following the shut off of power Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. The Robinson gas station in Nevada City was one of the only stations to continue pumping gas following the shutdown two weeks ago. Lights went out across large portions of Northern California on Wednesday, as the state's largest utility began its second massive blackout in two weeks, citing the return of dangerous fire weather. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)
Robinson Enterprises Gas Station in downtown Grass Valley, Calif., sits vacated following the shut off of power Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. The Robinson gas station in Nevada City was one of the only stations to continue pumping gas following the shutdown two weeks ago. Lights went out across large portions of Northern California on Wednesday, as the state’s largest utility began its second massive blackout in two weeks, citing the return of dangerous fire weather. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)

“Right now, we have no wind. Zero. I don’t even see a single leaf blowing. Did they really have to cut the power right now?” he said, shortly after the lights went out Wednesday afternoon and he revved up the generators. “When the wind picks up to 40 mph maybe that’s a good time to close the power.”

“They’re not appreciating enough the impact this has on everybody,” he said about PG&E.

Some of the frustration was being taken out on PG&E employees, the company’s CEO said.

Motorists faced some confusion at the intersections of Sutton and Brunswick following the planned power outage, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Grass Valley, Calif. Lights went out across large portions of Northern California on Wednesday, as the state's largest utility began its second massive blackout in two weeks, citing the return of dangerous fire weather. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)
Motorists faced some confusion at the intersections of Sutton and Brunswick following the planned power outage, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Grass Valley, Calif. Lights went out across large portions of Northern California on Wednesday, as the state’s largest utility began its second massive blackout in two weeks, citing the return of dangerous fire weather. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)

Johnson said Wednesday that a PG&E employee was the target of what appeared to be a deliberate attack in Glenn County. He said a projectile that may have come from a pellet gun hit the employee’s front window. The employee wasn’t hurt.

“There is no justification for this sort of violence,” Johnson said. “Wherever you see crews they are there to help you.”

Mandatory evacuations were prompted east of Geyserville after a wildfire sparked in northeastern Sonoma County along the Lake County line late Wednesday.

Maria's restaurant staff work in candle light as they choose to stay open with a limited menu offering after losing power Wednesday evening, Oct. 23, 2019, in downtown Grass Valley, Calif. Lights went out across large portions of Northern California on Wednesday, as the state's largest utility began its second massive blackout in two weeks, citing the return of dangerous fire weather. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)
Maria’s restaurant staff work in candle light as they choose to stay open with a limited menu offering after losing power Wednesday evening, Oct. 23, 2019, in downtown Grass Valley, Calif. Lights went out across large portions of Northern California on Wednesday, as the state’s largest utility began its second massive blackout in two weeks, citing the return of dangerous fire weather. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)

The Press Democrat reports that according to dispatch reports, the Kincade fire spread to about 1,000 acres by 11 p.m.

Cal Fire spokesman Will Powers said the blaze near the Geysers area was burning at a “dangerous rate.”

Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore said PG&E was better this time about getting information to people who would be affected, but he was still astonished by the need to resort to largescale blackouts.

Maria's Restaurant manager Rich Fuxjager holds a battery powered lamp in the kitchen of Maria's restaurant as they continue to work with a limited menu following a power outage, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Grass Valley, Calif. Lights went out across large portions of Northern California on Wednesday, as the state's largest utility began its second massive blackout in two weeks, citing the return of dangerous fire weather. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)
Maria’s Restaurant manager Rich Fuxjager holds a battery powered lamp in the kitchen of Maria’s restaurant as they continue to work with a limited menu following a power outage, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Grass Valley, Calif. Lights went out across large portions of Northern California on Wednesday, as the state’s largest utility began its second massive blackout in two weeks, citing the return of dangerous fire weather. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)

“I am a big believer in shutdowns to prevent fires. But the thing that erodes public trust is when it doesn’t make sense,” he said. “You say, ‘God, I know if we can put a man on the moon … we can manage a (power) grid.'”

__

Associated Press writers Janie Har in San Francisco and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Maria's restaurant owner Maria Ramos-Byers talks to her employees about the limited menu they will be offering to customers during efforts to keep the restaurant open, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Grass Valley, Calif., following the third Pacific Gas & Electric Co. power shutdown to hit Nevada County over the past month. Business owners are finding ways to keep open with generators and battery power.L ights went out across large portions of Northern California on Wednesday, as the state's largest utility began its second massive blackout in two weeks, citing the return of dangerous fire weather. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)
Maria’s restaurant owner Maria Ramos-Byers talks to her employees about the limited menu they will be offering to customers during efforts to keep the restaurant open, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Grass Valley, Calif., following the third Pacific Gas & Electric Co. power shutdown to hit Nevada County over the past month. Business owners are finding ways to keep open with generators and battery power.L ights went out across large portions of Northern California on Wednesday, as the state’s largest utility began its second massive blackout in two weeks, citing the return of dangerous fire weather. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)
NID electrical systems technician Richard Dills stands next to a 300,000 watt industrial diesel powered generator used to keep treated water flowing to residents during the shutdown Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Grass Valley, Calif. Lights went out across large portions of Northern California on Wednesday, as the state's largest utility began its second massive blackout in two weeks, citing the return of dangerous fire weather. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)
NID electrical systems technician Richard Dills stands next to a 300,000 watt industrial diesel powered generator used to keep treated water flowing to residents during the shutdown Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Grass Valley, Calif. Lights went out across large portions of Northern California on Wednesday, as the state’s largest utility began its second massive blackout in two weeks, citing the return of dangerous fire weather. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)
FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2019, file photo, Salvador Espinosa sweeps in the kitchen of a Mary's Pizza Shack restaurant during a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power shutdown in Santa Rosa, Calif. Authorities say power outages have started Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Northern California after the state's largest utility said it was planning a widespread blackout citing wildfire danger. The Santa Rosa Fire Department tweeted Wednesday that shutoffs had started in the city and it was getting multiple reports of outages. Pacific Gas & Electric said earlier Wednesday it was going forward with blackouts later in the day that could affect 450,000 people in 17 counties of Northern California. (Christopher Chung/The Press Democrat via AP, File)/The Press Democrat via AP)
FILE – In this Oct. 10, 2019, file photo, Salvador Espinosa sweeps in the kitchen of a Mary’s Pizza Shack restaurant during a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power shutdown in Santa Rosa, Calif. Authorities say power outages have started Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Northern California after the state’s largest utility said it was planning a widespread blackout citing wildfire danger. The Santa Rosa Fire Department tweeted Wednesday that shutoffs had started in the city and it was getting multiple reports of outages. Pacific Gas & Electric said earlier Wednesday it was going forward with blackouts later in the day that could affect 450,000 people in 17 counties of Northern California. (Christopher Chung/The Press Democrat via AP, File)/The Press Democrat via AP)
FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2019, file photo, Pacific Gas & Electric employees work in the PG&E Emergency Operations Center in San Francisco. Authorities say power outages have started Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Northern California after the state's largest utility said it was planning a widespread blackout citing wildfire danger. The Santa Rosa Fire Department tweeted Wednesday that shutoffs had started in the city and it was getting multiple reports of outages. Pacific Gas & Electric said earlier Wednesday it was going forward with blackouts later in the day that could affect 450,000 people in 17 counties of Northern California. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
FILE – In this Oct. 10, 2019, file photo, Pacific Gas & Electric employees work in the PG&E Emergency Operations Center in San Francisco. Authorities say power outages have started Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Northern California after the state’s largest utility said it was planning a widespread blackout citing wildfire danger. The Santa Rosa Fire Department tweeted Wednesday that shutoffs had started in the city and it was getting multiple reports of outages. Pacific Gas & Electric said earlier Wednesday it was going forward with blackouts later in the day that could affect 450,000 people in 17 counties of Northern California. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2018 file photo, Pacific Gas & Electric crews work to restore power lines in Paradise, Calif. Authorities say power outages have started Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Northern California after the state's largest utility said it was planning a widespread blackout citing wildfire danger. The Santa Rosa Fire Department tweeted Wednesday that shutoffs had started in the city and it was getting multiple reports of outages. Pacific Gas & Electric said earlier Wednesday it was going forward with blackouts later in the day that could affect 450,000 people in 17 counties of Northern California. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
FILE – In this Nov. 9, 2018 file photo, Pacific Gas & Electric crews work to restore power lines in Paradise, Calif. Authorities say power outages have started Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Northern California after the state’s largest utility said it was planning a widespread blackout citing wildfire danger. The Santa Rosa Fire Department tweeted Wednesday that shutoffs had started in the city and it was getting multiple reports of outages. Pacific Gas & Electric said earlier Wednesday it was going forward with blackouts later in the day that could affect 450,000 people in 17 counties of Northern California. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2017, file photo, PG&E crews work on restoring power lines in a fire ravaged neighborhood in an aerial view in the aftermath of a wildfire in Santa Rosa, Calif. Authorities say power outages have started Wednesday, Oct. 23, in Northern California after the state's largest utility said it was planning a widespread blackout citing wildfire danger. The Santa Rosa Fire Department tweeted Wednesday that shutoffs had started in the city and it was getting multiple reports of outages. Pacific Gas & Electric said earlier Wednesday it was going forward with blackouts later in the day that could affect 450,000 people in 17 counties of Northern California. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
FILE – In this Oct. 14, 2017, file photo, PG&E crews work on restoring power lines in a fire ravaged neighborhood in an aerial view in the aftermath of a wildfire in Santa Rosa, Calif. Authorities say power outages have started Wednesday, Oct. 23, in Northern California after the state’s largest utility said it was planning a widespread blackout citing wildfire danger. The Santa Rosa Fire Department tweeted Wednesday that shutoffs had started in the city and it was getting multiple reports of outages. Pacific Gas & Electric said earlier Wednesday it was going forward with blackouts later in the day that could affect 450,000 people in 17 counties of Northern California. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)