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Last year, state officials changed the law to allow power companies to be more aggressive shutting down electrical lines in areas where strong, dry winds were predicted so that even if they were downed, they wouldn't spark a fire. The idea was that the outages would be used only as a last resort and that, ultimately, a little bit of pain and inconvenience was worth avoiding another deadly wildfire.

The state's two largest utilities employed that preventive move in a big way last week, plunging millions of people into the dark from Humboldt to Ventura counties, bungling communications with the public and prompting questions about whether the weather in the end had justified such an extreme reaction.

Among the questions that need answering is why the power was cut to some communities and not others. We know that shutting down power lines has ripple effects, but without explanation, the outages felt random. Also, why were the utilities not better prepared to communicate with customers about what was coming? How could they not have foreseen this demand for information?

But the most important question to be answered is whether the outages accomplished anything. Equipment didn't start any fires last week, but that might have been the case even if the lights had stayed on. Meanwhile, thousands of Southern Californians had their power cut.

Editorial on 10/17/2019

Print Headline: Were outages worth it?

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