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California’s independent system operator issues emergency alert as record-breaking heatwave strains state’s power grid

A record-breaking heat wave made life miserable across much of the West on Tuesday, as California stretched into its second week of excessive heat that taxed the state’s power supply and threatened power shortages which could cause power outages as people desperately tried to stay cool.

California’s Independent System Operator (ISO), the entity that oversees the state’s power grid, has upgraded its energy emergency alert level from 2 to 3, making power outages possible. He had previously warned that there could be “rotating blackouts” on Tuesday evening.

“As grid conditions have deteriorated, power supplies have been deemed insufficient to meet demand and reserves,” Cal ISO said Tuesday evening.

A little after 7 p.m. local time, ISO reported that statewide demand had reached 52,061 megawatts, a California record. However, just after 20 ISO hours reported that Alert Level 3 had been lifted without any rotating power outages.

“Consumer conservation has played a big role in protecting the reliability of the power grid,” the ISO tweeted. “Thank you, California! »

Prior to the Tier 3 upgrade, utility provider Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which provides electricity to much of northern and central California, tweeted that he had contacted 525,000 customers warning them of possible power cuts “lasting 1 to 2 hours”.

Outages allow power companies to “reduce demand” and “stabilize the system”, according to the ISO. Affected residents will be notified by their power companies of the location and duration of the outages, ISO said.

California has been under Flex Alert for several consecutive days. Under a flexible alert, which typically applies between 4 p.m. lights and not using large appliances. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted a reminder of Tuesday night’s Flex Alert. He had previously urged residents to conserve, warning in a video message that “the risk of failure is real and immediate”.

California heat wave
Debbie Chang, right, hands a bottle of water to a man on the street in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. Unseen Chang and Kim Burrell handed out water and snacks to those who they find themselves in need on the streets. Temperatures in the Sacramento area are expected to hit record highs on Tuesday.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP


“This heat wave is on track to be both the hottest and longest on record for the state and many parts of the West for the month of September,” Newsom said. “Everyone needs to do their part to help step up for a few more days.”

California’s state capital, Sacramento, tied a record on Tuesday with its 41st day of temperatures hitting at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). And there was a chance the city would shatter its temperature record of 114 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius) set in 1925, according to the National Weather Service.

Sacramento native Debbie Chang strolled through Capitol Park on Tuesday morning, pulling a cart of Pop-Tarts and water to distribute to the homeless. She lives in an old house that relies on wall units which she says don’t work very well. The temperature reached 91 degrees (33 C) in his house on Monday evening.

“The last few years in California, it’s been really tough,” she said. “I really love this state. And growing up, I never imagined that I would want to live outside of California, except maybe overseas. But it’s very difficult.”

In San Francisco, temperatures hit 94 degrees (34C) just before noon Tuesday in an area known for its mild summer weather where most people don’t have air conditioning. In Los Angeles, temperatures were in the upper 90s on Tuesday, prompting the nation’s second-largest school district to limit the use of asphalt and concrete playgrounds.

In neighboring Nevada, Reno set a record high of 102 degrees (39C) on Monday while in Salt Lake City in Utah – a city more than 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) above sea level – temperatures were around 20 degrees above normal, hitting 105 degrees (40.5 C) on Tuesday, the hottest September day on record since 1874.


California’s worst heatwave in years strains power grid

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Scientists say climate change has made the West hotter and drier over the past three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. Over the past five years, California has experienced the largest and most destructive wildfires in state history.

A wildfire that started Friday in the northern California community of Weed killed two people and one that erupted Monday and quickly spread through the Hemet area of ​​southern California, also killed two people. Authorities said they were found in the same area and apparently died trying to flee the flames.

Although the heat wave likely peaked in most places on Tuesday, extremely high temperatures are expected to continue for several days.

“This is a truly dangerous event from a human health perspective,” said Daniel Swain, a climatologist at the University of California, Los Angeles Institute for Environment and Sustainability.

Sacramento County officials were using air-conditioned lobbies in some of their public buildings as cooling centers for people with nowhere to go and offering free transportation to people who couldn’t get there. Authorities have even distributed motel vouchers to some homeless people as part of a program they normally reserve for the winter, according to county spokeswoman Janna Haynes.

“While a lot of people can stay home, a lot of people don’t have a home to stay in,” Haynes said.

In state office buildings, thermostats were set to 85 degrees (29 °C) by 5 p.m. to conserve electricity.

Sacramento native Ariana Clark said she can’t remember it ever being this hot this long before. She said she turned off her air conditioner in the afternoon to save energy and kept her 9-month-old son, Benito, cool by filling a bucket so he could play outside.

“As long as he stays calm, that’s all that matters,” Clark said.

Juliana Hinch, who moved to Sacramento from San Diego 2½ years ago, said she had never seen such heat before. She said some wetlands near her house have mostly dried up, so she leaves water in her front yard “for other random animals,” including cats, squirrels and coyotes.

Hinch said she once lived in Washington state but moved because it was too cold. Now she said “sounds like a good problem to have”.