Flex alerts: Ways to conserve power and stay cool

A sign shows a temperature of 106 in Woodland Hills at midday Monday.
An excessive heat warning is in effect through Thursday evening this week. Temperatures were in the triple digits around Southern California, including in Woodland Hills on Monday.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A heat wave has settled over California, and with it, a power shortage the governor described as “unacceptable.”

Rolling blackouts could be necessary over the next 72 hours while state officials work to mitigate the deficit.

The California Independent System Operator issued a statewide flex alert on Thursday and another one on Sunday. It declared a Stage 3 emergency on Friday, ordering utilities to reduce usage by 1,000 megawatts. The massive reduction — the first time such a drastic step has been taken since 2001 — led to rolling blackouts across California.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are running air conditioners at home instead of using shared resources in offices and schools. By the time the emergency was declared on Friday, California was in its most severe power shortage in two decades.


The flex alert is in place through Thursday. In order to help conserve power, the state recommends:

  • Setting your air conditioner to 78 degrees or higher between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m.
  • Turning off unnecessary lights.
  • Unplugging electrical devices you’re not using.
  • Closing blinds and drapes.
  • Using fans instead of running the air conditioner.
  • Avoiding using major appliances such as dishwashers, washers and dryers between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Extreme weather across California has spurred fire tornadoes, rare lightning storms, record heat and rolling blackouts.

The National Weather Service’s excessive heat warning for California is in effect through 9 p.m. Thursday.

Normally, when the mercury rises, people go to movie theaters, malls and beaches to cool off. But as with so many aspects of life, coronavirus complicates that. Some options for cooling down that don’t involve crowds or upping your electrical usage:

  • Visit one of L.A.'s shady parks.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Freeze a washcloth and put it on your face and neck.
  • Put ice packs on pressure points such as your wrists, ankles and the backs of your knees.
  • Take a cool bath or shower.
  • Stick your sheets in the freezer for a few minutes, then put them back on your bed right before you go to sleep.
  • Put a tray of ice cubes in front of your fan.
  • Go to one of the city’s cooling centers.

See more tips and cooling center locations on the L.A. Department of Emergency Management’s website.

A mature urban forest and dense tree canopy can provide relief on the hottest days. Here are 15 places to cool off this summer.