September heat wave hits the Bay Area, power outages remain a concern

With a huge heat wave coming this weekend the operators of the power grid issued a Flex Alert asking people to take conservation seriously to avoid more rolling blackouts. You can cool off if you are COVID-19 prepared.

Because the extreme heat will be state wide, grid operators, who could not muster enough power for the mid-August heat wave, say they don't really know what will happen this time around.

"The pandemic has changed our forecasting profiles and it's blurred the lines a bit between workdays and weekend days," said Eric Schmitt, Grid Operations VP.

Rolling blackouts depend on conservation. "We issued, this morning, a Flex Alert this morning to give the public notice that we are anticipating high loads and need their help again," said Grid Operations VP John Phipps.

Since the most energy critical time of day is between 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., grid operators ask customers to do the following:

  1. "Pre-cool" their homes in the morning then setting A/C to 78 degrees after 3 p.m. and use fans
  2. Close drapes or blinds to keep heat out
  3. Turn off unnecessary lighting
  4. Don't use washers/dryers and dishwashers, other large appliances and pool pumps until 9 p.m.
  5. Put bottles of water in the fridge to keep it cool
  6. Don't use ovens because they create heat
  7. Charge vehicles and electronics in the morning

With tight supplies, grid officials say if consumers conserve, they do not expect blackouts. But, most critical time is from 6 to 9 pm when solar is less efficient or nonexistent.

"The entire west is is competing for supply going into this hot period," said Grid Performance VP Mark Rothleder. "This is the sort of an event that would happen every ten years or so. This is another sort of statewide heat event," said Jan Null, founder of Golden Gate Weather Service.

But, since we will have had two such events in less than a month, are we seeing a climate change event, or is it too early to tell?

"We need some time to build up that history to see if that there is a positive trend line for events like this," said Mr. Null.

Beaches in Santa Cruz County, Monterey County, and Point Reyes National Seashore will be closed. In San Francisco, Sonoma and San Mateo counties, except for Pacifica, beaches will be open. Air quality will be a problem in many areas.

"The Air District is extending the Air Alerts until Saturday. So we're going into the Labor Day weekend with the smoke situation still very much present," said Bay Area Air Quality Management District spokesman Ralph Borrmann.

PG&E says it will operate cooling centers throughout its service area