Hundreds of thousands of Californians were plunged into darkness on Friday evening as companies cut power to homes after the state’s Independent System Operator declared a Stage 3 energy emergency.
With temperatures soaring above 100 degrees in many parts of the state, and millions of residents stuck at home amid the coronavirus pandemic, experts feared the high demand for power would overwhelm the grid.
‘A Stage 3 Emergency is declared when demand outpaces available supply. Rotating power interruptions have been initiated to maintain stability of the electric grid,’ the Independent System Operator announced shortly before 6pm.
After that announcement, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. confirmed it would be cutting power to as many as 250,000 customers, while Southern California Edison also said they would be conducting rolling blackouts.
Residents were unable to be notified due to the emergency announcement, leaving thousands of vulnerable people suddenly without air-conditioning in the midst of a severe heatwave.
Grid managers last implemented such a power cut in 2001, when the state was suffering from an electric crisis.
It comes amid a horror week for the state, which is still struggling to contain COVID-19 infections. On Friday, the state surpassed 600,000 confirmed cases of the contagious virus – more than New York state.
There are also currently 13 wildfires raging across the state, with the hot weather causing catastrophic conditions for firefighters.
California’s nightmare looks likely to continue, and more enforced power shutoffs could be coming over the weekend as the state continues to sizzle.
The National Weather Service says that sweltering conditions are set to stay, with the heatwave set to rival the deadly seven-day heat event in 2006, during which L.A. saw its highest-ever temperature of 119 degrees.
Solar generators for the state will also be impacted as cloud cover from tropical storm Elida is expected to crimp output.