Hundreds of thousands of people lost power in dozens of California counties Sunday as weather forecasters predicted the most powerful winds of the year and the potential for more raging wildfires, officials said.

Pacific Gas & Electric, which supplies power to millions across Northern and Central California, had shut off electricity to 225,000 customers by Sunday night, said Mark Quinlan, the utility’s incident commander. Another 136,000 were expected to lose power by midnight, he said.

The outages are expected to hit 36 counties, he said.

The company, which pleaded guilty this year to having caused the state’s deadliest wildfire, has taken to shutting off its electrical grid to prevent its equipment from sparking new fires.

“Unfortunately, this event is going to transpire as predicted,” the company’s meteorologist, Scott Strenfel, told reporters Sunday night.

Earlier, forecasters with the National Weather Service said the strongest winds of the year were anticipated in some areas of the state through Monday. With low humidity and tinder-dry vegetation, the agency placed much of Northern California under its highest-risk wildfire alert, a red flag warning.

Strenfel said winds could top 70 mph in some areas.

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