Heatwave, Fires, Blackouts: California Declares Emergency

Gov. Gavin Newsom says crews are battling 30 large fires
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 19, 2020 1:40 AM CDT
Heatwave, Fires, Blackouts: California Declares Emergency
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a tour of a cooling center with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Sacramento, Calif.   (Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP, Pool)

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared an emergency Tuesday over wildfires burning throughout California amid excessive heat while the state’s power grid operator thanked customers for conserving energy in order to avoid rolling blackouts. The California Independent System Operator had warned earlier in the day that many homes and businesses might be affected unless conservation measures worked but it lifted an emergency declaration shortly before 8pm, tweeting: “We did it!" Conservation measures also helped avoid sweeping outages on Monday, but the heat wave blanketing much of the state with triple-digit heat was expected to continue into Wednesday before a few days of slightly cooler weather set in, followed by rising temperatures again for the weekend. At a cooling center in Sacramento, Newsom applauded industries, businesses, and residents for driving down energy usage but warned the state was in a “critical 48-hour period," the AP reports.

The state is in a days-long heatwave that has stressed the electrical system. But the dynamic, humid weather also sparked brief, heavy thunderstorms and flash flood warnings Tuesday afternoon in some desert and mountain areas. Lightning strikes also set dozens of fires and thousands of people were under evacuation orders not far from the San Francisco Bay Area, near Salinas in Monterey County, around Oroville Dam north of Sacramento, in remote Mendocino County, and near the Nevada state line north of Lake Tahoe. Newsom said Tuesday that crews were battling some 30 large fires. California ISO issued the first rolling blackouts in nearly 20 years on Friday, resulting in the state’s three biggest utilities—Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric—turning off power to more than 410,000 homes and businesses for about an hour at a time until the emergency declaration ended 3 1/2 hours later. A second but shorter outage hit Saturday evening, affecting more than 200,000 customers.

(More California stories.)

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