Hot weather prompts 'Flex Alert' in SoCal to save power

- Record-setting temperatures in the Southland climbed well past the 100-degree mark on the hottest day of a brutal three-day heat wave, causing widespread power outages, raging wildfires and prompting officials to issue excessive heat warnings.
 

A Flex-Alert was in effect until 9 p.m. today by the California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO), the state agency that matches private and public electricity generating resources to the amount of demand.

A Flex-Alert is a request for voluntary electric conservation measures, including consumers turning off in unnecessary lighting, postponing the use of major appliances like hot tubs, washing machines and dryers, and setting air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees or higher.

 The heat was blamed for at least some of the outages reported yesterday and today by Southern California Edison. At one point today, more than 20,000 SCE customers were without power, but restorations brought that number down to about 11,600 at 3 p.m., with the majority of those outages occurring in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, a spokesperson said.
  
One outage in Downey today impacted as many as 13,500 SCE customers, but crews were able to reduce that number to about 2,600 by 3 p.m.
  
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported 17 outages in its service area, with nearly 5,000 customers impacted as of 4 p.m. Officials said crews are working to restore power as soon as possible
  
SCE officials said most of the outages were caused by equipment failure.
  
The LADWP urged residents to prepare for possible power outages by having flashlights and batteries readily available and keeping a battery-operated radio handy. Officials also recommended that people keep a phone
charger in a car to ensure they can contact friends or relatives during an outage, keep a supply of non-perishable food and have a cooler available to use for food that needs to be refrigerated.
  
A red-flag warning signifying a risk of wildfire will be in effect until 8 p.m. Tuesday in the San Gabriel Mountains and through 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Santa Barbara mountains and south coast, where the 7,892-acre Sherpa
Fire continued to burn.
  
Amid soaring temperatures and bone-dry conditions, a pair of fast-moving brush fires tore through vegetation today in the Angeles National Forest and the foothills above Duarte and Azusa, exploding across more than 2,000 acres. Firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service and the Los Angeles County Fire Department were battling the blazes, but there was no containment as of mid-afternoon.
  
The National Weather Service warned that very high temperatures, humidity dipping into single digits at times and locally gusty winds will increase fire danger in the area through Tuesday.
  
Burbank reached 107 degrees at 10:19 a.m. today, topping the record for this day of 106 degrees, set in 2008, according to the NWS. Los Angeles International Airport had a temperature of 95 degrees at 8:43 a.m., topping the 1973 record for this day of 92 degrees, but forecasters say a shift in winds quickly dropped temperatures at the airport to the upper 70s before it began rising again as the day wore on.
  
Minor relief was expected in coastal and valley areas beginning Tuesday, but the San Gabriel Mountains and the Santa Clarita Valley were to remain dangerously hot.
  
"Dangerous heat-related illness is possible, especially for sensitive populations, those conducting outdoor activities, and people without access to air conditioning," the NWS said.
  
Dr. Karen Smith, California Department of Public Health director and State Public Health officer, underscored the seriousness of the hazards posed by high temperatures.
  
"Heat-related emergencies cause dozens of deaths in California each year and prompt thousands of people to seek treatment at local emergency rooms," Smith said. "In 2006, nearly 200 people died in California from extreme heat. High temperatures need to be taken very seriously. People should protect themselves and watch out for others who might be vulnerable."
  
The Department of Public Health recommends that Southern Californians
stay safe during the heat wave by:
   -- keeping an eye on weather forecasts and alerts from local officials;
   -- learning to recognize heat-related illnesses;
   -- staying out of direct sunlight and staying hydrated;
   -- reducing physical activity;
   -- identifying a cool location -- a mall, library, theater or designated
cooling center; the Los Angeles Police Department recommends calling 311
within city limits and 211 within county limits to find the nearest cooling
station;
   -- wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing and sunscreen;
   -- checking on pets, friends, family and neighbors who may be especially
sensitive to excessive heat.
  
Additionally, the NWS notes that anyone overcome by the high temperatures should call 911 because heat stroke is an emergency.
  
The county agency and NWS forecasters also reminded residents they should never leave people or pets in enclosed vehicles, even for a few minutes.
  
Animal services officials say pet owners must make sure their animals are kept cool during the heat wave. They should watch for signs of heat stroke, such as fast and noisy breathing, difficulty swallowing and distressed
behavior.
  
If heat stroke is suspected, pet owners should place a cold, wet towel on the back of the animal's head, and towel-wrapped cold compresses on their back legs and belly. The pet should be immediately taken to a veterinarian to be checked.
 

The utility recommended that customers save energy by:

turning thermostats to 78 degrees or higher;
turning off unnecessary lights;
adjusting water heaters to 120 degrees;
using major appliances only late in the evening or early in the morning; and
turning off pool pumps.

The statewide electric supply system will be stressed to provide the 45.3 billion watts of electricity that is projected to be sucked up by customers, the state agency said in a news release issued at midafternoon Sunday.

Cal-ISO and other state agencies have warned that heat waves this summer may draw more power than can be generated, due to supply imbalances of natural gas.

The Southern California Company's giant underground natural gas storage facility at Porter Ranch was taken off line due to massive leaks. That means natural gas-fired electrical generators in the Southland may not have enough fuel to generate the electricity needed to meet demand, state officials said.

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