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LADWP sees highest demand ever as Angelenos roast in record-breaking heat wave

LADWP sees highest demand ever as Angelenos roast in record-breaking heat wave
Rain falls behind power lines near Adelanto at the end of a scorching hot day Wednesday. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers used more electricity on Thursday battling the heat wave than has ever been used in the agency's history, DWP officials announced.

Customers hit a peak demand of 6,502 megawatts at 4:15 p.m., shattering the previous record of 6,396 megawatts used on Sept. 16, 2014. The agency expects a record to be set on Friday as the heat wave continues.

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"Simple actions like setting your thermostat at 78 degrees or higher, using major appliances before or after peak hours, and turning off unnecessary lights can go a long way toward reducing the strain on our electrical equipment and overall power system demand," LADWP General Manager David H. Wright said in a statement. "High nighttime temperatures and around-the-clock demand for electricity by customers doesn't allow our high-voltage equipment time to cool. By reducing your electricity use, you can help prevent power outages during this record-breaking heat storm."

In Boyle Heights, an estimated 11,000 Department of Water and Power customers were without power between Wednesday night and Thursday morning as high demand overloaded equipment to the point of failure, the agency said. Power was restored by 6 a.m., officials said.

In all, about 14,000 DWP customers lost electricity overnight as crews worked to reroute power to less-used equipment, the agency said.

The toll on the region's power grid has been a concern for days as temperatures have hovered in the triple digits during the day and 70s or 80s at night. Temperatures remained even warmer in the deserts, where cities like Palm Springs had a low of 90 degrees overnight Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.

The heat wave and the inevitable spike in power usage triggered the California Independent System Operator to issue two flex alerts this week. Officials this week called on utility customers to voluntarily conserve power through the hottest hours of the day. Despite the call for conservation, blackouts were reported across the region.

The latest outage occurred Thursday morning in Colton, in San Bernardino County. Unlike other recent outages, though, Colton's was caused by lightning.

According to the city of Colton Public Utilities' Facebook page, a lightning strike hit the city's main substation, which receives power from Southern California Edison. Schools were closed districtwide for the day because of the outage.

The city's water pumps and phone lines were down, and the only way the agency could send messages Thursday morning was through Facebook, it wrote.

"PLEASE USE EXTREME WATER CONSERVATION DURING THIS OUTAGE OUR PUMPS DO NOT HAVE POWER," the agency wrote about 8:30 a.m.

Power was restored before 4 p.m.

In the afternoon, a lightning storm sparked a brush fire near the 5 Freeway in Castaic, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. The fire started about 4 p.m. amid some 3,400 lightning strikes that occurred in the afternoon.

Several heat records were also broken in Southern California.

Burbank hit 108 degrees, breaking the old record of 106 set in 2007, the weather service said. Sandberg reached 98, two degrees higher than the 1995 record of 96. Riverside reached 112 degrees, breaking its old record of 110 set in 1998.

An excessive heat warning for the Apple and Lucerne valleys and the mountains, valleys and foothills in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties remains in effect through Saturday.

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For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.

Staff writer Veronica Rocha contributed to this report.

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UPDATES:

5:50 p.m.: This article was updated with customer usage data from LADWP.

This article was originally published at 11:15 a.m.

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