Californians experience first rotating blackouts since 2001 amid heat wave

California Connection

The Latest:

10:10 p.m.

PG&E says power has been restored to about 200,00 customers with the rest of the 220,000 impacted customers expected to be with power around 11 p.m.

9:50 p.m.

The California Independent System Operator said the statewide Stage 3 Emergency has been terminated.

9 p.m.

The City of Manteca says blackouts will continue until 11 p.m. and that they should only last one hour. Although, the city says that at least one blackout is due to a blown electrical transformer.

7:30 p.m.

Pacific Gas and Electric’s outage map shows tens of thousands without power all along Highway 50, from El Dorado Hills to Twin Bridges.

The utility says it has been instructed by the ISO to perform rotating blackouts to ease the strain on the power grid. Roughly 200,000 to 250,000 PG&E customers at a time will lose power as a result.

PG&E expects the outages to be around one hour each and last until 11 p.m.

In a release sent Thursday, Sacramento Municipal Utility District said, “We have enough power resources to meet demand, barring a regional or state grid emergency, and we have additional crews available to quickly restore power in the event of an outage.”

7 p.m.

By just after 6:30 p.m., the California Independent System Operator issued a Stage 3 System Emergency for the rest of Friday.

On their site’s fact sheet, the ISO says a Stage 3 indicates it is “unable to meet minimum contigency reserve requirements, and load interruption is imminent or in progress. Notice issued to utilities of potential electricity interruptions.”

The last time the ISO declared a Stage 3 Emergency was in 2001, according to a spokesperson.

5:40 p.m.

The California Independent System Operator declared a Stage 2 Emergency for Friday amid a heat wave that is putting a strain on the state’s power grid.

The ISO said if a Stage 3 Emergency is declared, rotating power outages will follow.

Original story below:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California on Friday ordered rolling power outages for the first time since 2001 as a statewide heat wave strained its electrical system.

The California Independent System Operator, which manages the power grid, declared an emergency shortly after 6:30 p.m. and directed utilities around the state to shed their power loads.

Pacific Gas & Electric tweeted that it would turn off power to about 200,000 to 250,000 customers in rotating outages for about an hour at a time until around 11 p.m. Other utilities were told to do the same.

“Extreme heat is really the driver behind this,” said Anne Gonzales, spokeswoman for the power grid operator.

During the hottest part of Friday, thousands lost power in Placer and Yolo counties.

One resident, Jim Barnes, said he was in the middle of giving an online music lesson when his power went out.

Barnes said he now has a backup plan in case the state’s power woes continue.

“And if it all comes out worse, we will actually end up going to Vacaville where my parents live,” Barnes said.

The rolling blackouts came as temperatures around the state hit triple digits in many areas, and air conditioning use soared.

In addition, cloudy weather from the remnants of tropical weather system reduced power generation from solar plants, she said.

The state tried to prepare for the expected rise in electrical use by urging conservation and trying to buy more power but a high-pressure system building over Western states meant there was less available.

The last time the state ordered rolling outages was during an energy crisis in 2001.

The heat wave is expected to last through next week and the power grid operator will decide whether to continue the rolling outages on a day-to-day basis, Gonzales said.

The heat wave brought dangerously high temperatures, increased wildfire danger and fears of coronavirus spread as people flock to beaches and parks for relief.

Heat records fell in several cities. Downtown San Francisco hit 90 degrees, topping a high for the date of 86 that was set in 1995. Salinas hit 102, 18 degrees above the record set just last year. Palm Springs hit 120, breaking a 2015 record by several degrees.

Sweltering weather was expected to continue into Wednesday across greater Los Angeles, the Central Valley, Sierra Nevada foothills and parts of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa counties opened cooling centers that will welcome people this weekend from the afternoon to the early evening. San Francisco officials said the city is recommending people stay home and that if the heat indoors gets intolerable to go outside to a shady place where they can stay cool and distant from other people.

“Congregate indoor sites are not safe necessarily during COVID-19. It is better to follow other instructions during this heat wave,” said Mary Ellen Carroll, executive director of the Department of Emergency Management.

Carroll encouraged residents to check on family, friends and neighbors, especially older adults and those in frail health, and reminded people to always wear a face mask when in the vicinity of people who don’t share their household.

“We know it’s going to be beautiful out this weekend but we just want everyone to remember that we are in a very serious response to this COVID-19 virus,” Carroll said.

Ernesto Guerrero bought a small air conditioner this week for La Tapatia, his restaurant in Martinez, northeast of San Francisco, where triple-digit temperatures are predicted. But he said the unit doesn’t do much to cool the cooking areas because the stove runs all day.

“It’s difficult. I tell you, the guys in the kitchen, they should be awarded special hazard pay, because it gets very warm in the kitchen,” Guerrero told KTVU-TV.

Los Angeles opened cooling centers, but with limited capacity because of virus social distancing requirements.

The scorching temperatures are a concern for firefighters battling blazes that have destroyed several homes and erupted near rural and urban foothill neighborhoods, driving through tinder-dry brush.

In addition to the possibility of heat stroke and other hot-weather illnesses, health officers were concerned that people will pack beaches, lakes and other recreation areas without following mask and social distancing orders — a major concern in the state that has seen more than 600,000 coronavirus cases.

Israel saw a COVID-19 resurgence after a May heat wave inspired school officials to let children remove their masks, Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

“People will want to take off their masks when it’s hot,” Rutherford said. “Don’t do it.”


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