Sweltering temps lead to record power usage
FRESNO (AP) – Californians set a record for energy use Monday as temperatures around the state soared above 100 degrees.
Tissany Humphrey, 21, found a low-tech way to keep her 8-month-old son cool in the sweltering heat as she ran errands in Redding, a city about 160 miles north of Sacramento, where temperatures were at 110 degrees at 4 p.m. Monday.
“I don’t have air conditioning in my car, so I drench him in water, roll the windows down and let the air hit him as we drive,” she said.
Humphrey, who is four months pregnant, went out to go grocery shopping and do laundry, chores she called “torturous and brutal” in the midday heat.
Energy officials urged people to drive less, and keep their air conditioner temperatures moderate or use fans in an effort to curb the demand for electricity.
By Monday afternoon, peak demand had surpassed 46,000 megawatts and was still growing, according to the California Independent System Operator Corporation. The previous record of 45,431 megawatts was set last year on July 20. One megawatt is approximately enough electricity to run 750 homes.
“We’re looking at a very high load,” said Kristina Osborne, spokeswoman for California’s ISO, referring to Monday’s energy usage. “We are looking OK for now. If something happens, if we lose a transmission line or a power plant goes off-line, all of that can impact the grid.”
Demand was also extremely high over the weekend, reaching 42,736 megawatts on Saturday and 41,875 on Sunday.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered state offices to adjust thermostats, turn off nonessential lights and employ other measures to reduce electricity use during peak hours for the rest of the week.
In 2000, the state’s electricity system collapsed under the weight of high demand, inadequate supplies, bottlenecked transmission lines, market manipulation and a botched attempt at deregulation.
The high temperatures have not only put pressure on the power system, but also have led to Spare the Air days around the state.
In the Bay Area where temperatures topped 100 degrees in the East Bay suburb of Walnut Creek, the mix of heat and air pollution from vehicle exhaust was expected to reach levels that are unhealthy for children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems, leading transportation officials to make public transit free to lure commuters away from their cars.
For some, the heat was an inevitable part of the workday. The United Farm Workers union last week kicked off a radio campaign to educate farmworkers throughout the state about their right to drinking water, shade and breaks – rules developed after five farmworkers died of heat-related deaths last year.
“We do not want to see a repeat of last summer. There are other workers in outdoor industries that have to work in extreme conditions but none have the high death rate that is found in the agriculture industry,” said Marc Grossman, a spokesman for the union.
Four of the five deaths last year were reported in Kern County, where temperatures reached 105 degrees Monday.
Even popular getaways were hit by the heat.
“A lot of people come to the park to find respite from the heat,” said Adrienne Freeman, a spokeswoman for Yosemite National Park. Although temperatures were predicted to hit 104 Tuesday, Freeman said it still beats the heat in lower altitudes.
“The nice thing about Yosemite is that it always cools off at night,” she said.
Temperatures in downtown Los Angeles peaked at 93 degrees Monday, but a cloud of monsoonal moisture over most of Southern California cooled the region by late afternoon.
– Associated Press writers Juliana Barbassa in San Francisco and Laura Kurtzman in Sacramento contributed to this story.
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