National Weather Service
FILE PHOTO: A woman jogs by power lines, as California’s grid operator urged the state’s 40 million people to ratchet down the use of electricity as a wave of extreme heat settled over much of the state. In Mountain View, Aug. 17, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

As record highs continued throughout the state Sunday, officials warned that the heat wave, set to afflict the state through the end of the week, could test the limits of the electric grid.

California officials urged residents Sunday to limit their power usage for the fifth day in a row as energy demand spiked and temperatures were still on the rise.

Demand for power is approaching record levels due to the soaring temperatures, prompting the state grid operator to again extend the flex alert to Monday, when there’s a high risk of rotating outages to ease the strain on the system.

“We are facing a load forecast of 48,817 megawatts and energy deficits between 2,000 and 4,000 megawatts for Monday, resulting in the highest likelihood of rotating outages we have seen so far this summer,” the California Independent System Operator said in a statement.

San Diego set a record temperature on Saturday of 95 degrees, but National Weather Service forecaster Tony Fracasso said a chance of afternoon thunderstorms could offer some relief Sunday.

Other local record highs fell or were tied Sunday, including one that had stood for 61 years. Escondido set a record of 102 degrees, breaking the 1997 mark of 101, according to the NWS.

Oceanside Harbor set a record of 95 degrees, breaking the 1961 record of 90. And the 102- degree mark in Ramona tied the community record set in 2010.

The worst of the heat was concentrated in a wide swath of California stretching from Sacramento down to Los Angeles, an area where temperatures could climb to 109 degrees. The thermometer could hit 115 degrees in some spots by midweek.

“The heat wave begins in earnest today,” the NWS in Sacramento tweeted, warning of “dangerous temperatures” through the end of the week.”

The Independent System Operator’s “flex alerts” mean that residents should set their thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, avoid using major appliances, and turn off lights in order to conserve energy during from the late afternoon to the early evening.

Monday’s window extends from 4 to 10 p.m. That’s an hour longer that the 4 to 9 p.m. period in recent days.

“The extra hour of reduced energy use is needed tomorrow because of projected market deficiencies through 10 p.m.,” the agency said in a news release, adding that “Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in particular are shaping up to be the most difficult of this heat wave.”

The agency added that the state’s ongoing wildfires and potential new blazes could further strain the power grid by crippling lines and generators. More than two decades of drought and rising temperatures, exacerbated by climate change, have made California more vulnerable than ever to wildfires.

In Northern California’s Siskiyou County, where firefighters were battling the fast-moving Mill Fire, the Sunday high was expected to reach 95. Temperatures were expected to top 100 in the coming days. The fire had burned more than 4,000 acres and was 25% contained as of Sunday morning, according to the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

– Reuters, staff and wire reports


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Ellen Bullock