Firefighters watch as a helicopter drops water in a wildfire in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)

Less than two weeks after blacking out much of Northern California, the state's largest utility is warning that dangerous fire weather could prompt it to shut off power to about a half-million people.

Pacific Gas & Electric began notifying customers Monday that it could begin precautionary shutoffs to parts of 16 counties as early as Wednesday, mostly in the Sierra foothills and to the north of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Any blackouts would last at least 48 hours, the utility said.

The utility is concerned that winds forecast to hit 60 mph at times could throw branches and debris into power lines or topple them, sparking wildfires. PG&E equipment has been blamed for igniting several of California's deadliest and most destructive fires in recent years and the utility, facing billions in potential claims, was forced into bankruptcy.

However, CEO Bill Johnson said the shutdown was about safety, not money.

"The sole intent is to prevent a catastrophic wildfire," he said.

A huge portion of California is under high fire risk amid unpredictable gusts and soaring temperatures. At least three homes were damaged or destroyed Monday evening by wind-whipped flames in a mountain community near San Bernardino in inland Southern California. Earlier in the day Los Angeles firefighters beat back a blaze as it raced up canyon walls toward multimillion-dollar ocean-view homes on a coastal ridge.

"This could be one of our most critical weeks of the fall season for fire weather due to very warm temperatures and bouts of Santa Ana winds," the National Weather Service said in a statement.

Southern California Edison, which had warned of possible safety outages at any time, announced Monday evening that none would take place in the next 48 hours but warned that it was monitoring the weather.

"Weather conditions might be different for Thursday," and in that case, notification would be given Tuesday, said Edison spokeswoman Sally Jeun.

PG&E's phone, text and email warnings to 200,000 homes and businesses came about 10 days after more than 2 million people had their lights turned off by the utility when powerful winds whipped up.

Johnson promised that if blackouts are necessary, the utility will work to do better at communicating with customers and avoid the chaos of the last shutoff when the utility only gave about 10 hours' warning to customers in northern and central California. Its website crashed, maps were inconsistent and call centers were overloaded.

Panicked residents stood in long lines at supermarkets, hardware stores and gas stations, rushing to buy ice, coolers, flashlights, batteries and gas for their cars.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and others blasted PG&E for the unprecedented size of the blackout and the communication problems.

Andy Vesey, a PG&E executive, said last week that the utility didn't think broadly enough and underestimated the needs of their customers and local governments.

"We have to develop a mindset, or culture, of anticipation," he said.

Palisades residents flee the area as a wildfire erupts in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
A man watches as firefighters prepare to enter his backyard to fight a wildfire in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. The blaze broke out Monday morning in a coastal canyon of the affluent Pacific Palisades neighborhood. The flames quickly churned uphill through dry brush as helicopters made water drops to keep it from reaching large houses at the top of a bluff. Firefighters in backyards are using water hoses to protect structures. The cause is unknown. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
A Los Angeles County Firefighter looks up at the Palisades Fire before gearing up to fight the flames in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. The blaze broke out Monday morning in a coastal canyon of the affluent Pacific Palisades neighborhood. The flames quickly churned uphill through dry brush as helicopters made water drops to keep it from reaching large houses at the top of a bluff. Firefighters in backyards are using water hoses to protect structures. The cause is unknown. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
A fire hose stands at a glass panel ready to protect a home from a wildfire in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. The blaze broke out Monday morning in a coastal canyon of the affluent Pacific Palisades neighborhood. The flames quickly churned uphill through dry brush as helicopters made water drops to keep it from reaching large houses at the top of a bluff. Firefighters in backyards are using water hoses to protect structures. The cause is unknown. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
A Palisades resident talks with a firefighter before evacuating her home as a wildfire erupts in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
A firefighter gets caught off-guard by a flare up of the Palisades Fire in the Highlands neighborhood in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
Firefighters pull hoses and spray flames behind a home in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
Firefighters protect a home from the flames of a wildfire in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
Eric Fine, a private security officer, helps authorities manage traffic and evacuations during a wildfire in the Highlands neighborhood of the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
A firefighter carries a hose during work to protect homes from the flames of a wildfire in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
Firefighters protect a home from a wildfire in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
Justin Babcock walks on the street outside of his home in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles as a wildfire burns in the area Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. A furious firefighting air and ground attack beat back the wildfire as it raced up canyon walls toward multimillion-dollar ocean-view homes as some residents evacuated and others stayed behind to try and protect their homes. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
Firefighters protect a home from a wildfire in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
A firefighter stands near a hydrant during work to protect homes from the flames of the Palisades Fire, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019 in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. A furious firefighting air and ground attack beat back the wildfire as it raced up canyon walls toward multimillion-dollar ocean-view homes as some residents evacuated and others stayed behind to try and protect their homes. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
A plane makes a drop in a canyon behind a ridgeline as a wildfire threatens homes in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
A Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter makes a water drop as flames from a wildfire threaten homes on a ridgeline in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Firefighters begin hosing down the flames of a wildfire called the Palisades Fire minutes after it ignites on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019 in Pacific Palisades, a suburb of Los Angeles. A furious firefighting air and ground attack beat back the wildfire Monday as it raced up canyon walls toward multimillion-dollar ocean-view homes on a ridge in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
Firefighters arrive on scene of the Palisades Fire in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
A firefighter looks out over the flames of the Palisades Fire minutes after it ignites on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019 in the Pacific Palisades, section of Los Angeles. The blaze broke out Monday morning in a coastal canyon of the affluent Pacific Palisades neighborhood. The flames quickly churned uphill through dry brush as helicopters made water drops to keep it from reaching large houses at the top of a bluff. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
A helicopter makes a water drop as flames threaten homes on a ridgeline in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
A helicopter makes a water drop as flames threaten homes on a ridgeline in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
A giant plume of smoke rises from a fire in Pacific Palisades, as seen from Topanga Canyon in Topanga, Calif., Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (Dean Musgrove/The Orange County Register via AP)
A helicopter makes a water drop as flames threaten homes on a ridgeline as a wildfire threatens homes in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)