Record temperatures lead California to order blackouts

SACRAMENTO, California, AP

Record temperatures in California led the state’s power grid managers to order rolling blackouts for the first time since March, cutting service to slightly more than 100,000 customers.

The California Independent System Operator said high temperatures in California and the West and tight electricity supplies resulted in the blackouts between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday.

“We expected demand to peak between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. and it didn’t,” said ISO spokeswoman Lorie O’Donley.”It just continued to climb.”

Grid managers asked utilities to cut 300 megawatts. One megawatt is enough to power about 750 homes.

The blackouts quickly snarled rush-hour traffic in portions of the state. In Santa Monica, police dispatched officers to check on the parts of the city without power.

“It has a significant impact on us. We have to have police units out to control intersections,” Lt. Ray Cooper said.

In San Dimas, traffic jammed intersections without lights, but there was no immediate word of accidents, said Nicole Panzone, a law enforcement technician with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. spokesman Ron Low said the utility cut 125 megawatts in Northern and Central California, affecting about 54,000 customers.

San Diego Gas & Electric cut power to about 8,600 customers in Orange County, El Cajon and the Torrey Pines and Mira Mesa areas of San Diego.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District cut 18 megawatts, affecting about 4,600 customers in southern Sacramento County, while the outages affected approximately 36,000 commercial, industrial and residential customers of Southern California Edison.

Small portions of 40 communities serviced by Edison were hit by the blackouts, including Chino Hills, Calimesa, Tulare, Long Beach, Beverly Hills, Oxnard, Barstow, Fullerton, Blythe, Santa Monica and Montclair, the company said.

Before the blackouts, the ISO had urged conservation because warm weather across the West was pushing up demand for electricity.

San Francisco reached 93 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Celsius), 2 degrees F (1 degree C) higher than the previous record set in 1987. Temperatures warmed to summerlike highs in Southern California, too, with readings ranging from 80 F (26 C) in downtown Los Angeles to over 100 F (38 C) in the deserts.

In addition, several key power plants were closed for pre-summer maintenance, officials said. Those plants normally would provide enough power for about 9.4 million homes.

Among the plants down for repairs are four nuclear power plants.

The ISO declared a Stage 2 alert Monday morning as electricity reserves dwindled to close to 5 percent. A Stage 3 alert, when reserves near 1.5 percent, can prompt blackouts.

California was hit with rolling blackouts Jan. 17 and 18 and March 19 and 20.