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Another Heat Dome Is Roasting the West, Threatening California’s Grid

Some areas will see temperatures as high as 124 degrees Fahrenheit (51 Celsius).

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The California Independent System Operator announced a statewide electricity Flex Alert urging conservation to avoid blackouts in Redondo Beach, California on August 31, 2022.
The California Independent System Operator announced a statewide electricity Flex Alert urging conservation to avoid blackouts in Redondo Beach, California on August 31, 2022.
Photo: PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP (Getty Images)

A record-breaking heat wave has descended over the U.S. West and is forecast to extend into Labor Day weekend. Officials in California are asking residents to reduce their electricity use in hopes of heading off blackouts, as the grid is likely to be strained by increased reliance on air conditioning amid the sweltering temperatures.

“Daily, monthly, and even all-time temperature records could be broken during this #LaborDayWeekend heat event for many #NorCal locations,” the National Weather Service tweeted yesterday.

As of Thursday morning, about 50 million people are under heat warnings and advisories across several states including California, Montana, Utah, and Arizona, Axios reports. A heat dome, which traps hot air underneath a “lid” of high atmospheric pressure, is going to keep the elevated temperatures over the area throughout this weekend and into next week.

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Temperatures in Los Angeles are expected to reach up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius), and Death Valley is expected to see temperatures up to 124 degrees Fahrenheit (51 Celsius), according to the National Weather Service. There were already alarming temperatures across some Southern California communities by Wednesday afternoon: Both Burbank and Woodland Hills reached 112 degrees Fahrenheit, which broke records in each area, ABC7 reported.

The California Independent System Operator, which manages most of the grid, has asked residents to lower their electricity from about 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. today. Households have especially been asked to avoid using larger appliances and charging electric vehicles, CNN reported. The operator has also asked Californians to set their thermostats to around 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the evenings to avoid further straining the state’s grid during the heatwave. The city opened several cooling centers around Los Angeles, in nursing homes and libraries, for residents who do not have air conditioning. The dangerous heat is also expected to intensify the area’s ongoing drought and fuel new wildfires across Southern California.

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“The National Weather Service is forecasting widespread extreme fire weather over parts of the central coast and southern California through the weekend and into next week,” a recent press release from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said. “The public is urged to remain aware of their surrounding conditions and to avoid outdoor activities that can cause a spark near dry vegetation.”

Residents near affected areas were urged to have an emergency plan in place, in case they are ordered to evacuate within the next few days.

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Summer heat waves are nothing new, but this summer has seen many record-breaking heat events. Tens of millions of Americans have been under heat alerts simultaneously, and historically temperate areas like the Pacific Northwest have seen temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 Celsius). Even areas that are accustomed to especially hot summers are struggling as nighttime temperatures rise, giving vulnerable people little respite from the sweltering heat.