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As excessive heat tapers off, threat of rolling blackouts wanes

With a near weeklong heat wave tapering off and successful energy conservation efforts, California managed to stave off rolling blackouts for the third consecutive night, and officials said power outages are not expected through the weekend.

The California Independent System Operator, which runs the electric grid for most of the state, had warned all week that statewide power outages were possible amid record heat after two nights of blackouts last weekend.

Officials repeatedly called for the voluntary conservation of electricity and issued flex alerts for consumers to reduce consumption from 3 to 10 p.m. most days.

On Wednesday evening, the California ISO credited imported energy and wind production in avoiding blackouts, and Steve Berberich, the agency’s CEO, said further outages aren’t anticipated.

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“As I speak right now, absent the loss of any big units or transmission lines, we do not expect any load disruptions,” Berberich said during a news conference. “We’re counting on those conservation measures for me to be able to say that.”

As of Thursday afternoon, no flex alerts had been issued across the state. Previous alerts had asked residents to set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees or above, use major appliances before 2 or 3 p.m., turn off all unnecessary lights and close all blinds and drapes to the midday sun.

High pressure will reach a strength that occurs only about once every 10 years, the National Weather Service said, fueling a heat wave that could rival the seven-day event in 2006 that researchers connected to hundreds of deaths.

Earlier this week, officials had warned of blackouts affecting as many as 3 million people, and although statewide blackouts were avoided, heat-related equipment issues left thousands without power in Los Angeles.

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On Wednesday, the L.A. Department of Water and Power was again faced with multiple outages across the city “due to strain on the system because of high demand and high temperatures,” the utility said on Twitter.

Berberich acknowledged the extreme weather that has gripped the state since Friday, but said after getting through Wednesday’s heat, the state’s energy load would decrease for the rest of the week. Officials must reaccess the system’s resources and reset the energy forecast Monday, he added.

High heat will continue throughout the weekend across parts of the state, with many areas blanketed by smoke and dense coastal fog, but some regions will begin to cool, according to the National Weather Service.

An excessive heat warning remains in place for the Los Angeles area through 10 p.m. Friday, but most locations in Southern California — nearly everywhere except the Antelope Valley — will be under 100 degrees, said Kathy Hoxsie, a meteorologist with the weather service in Oxnard. Afternoon thunderstorms in some mountain areas are also a possibility over the weekend.

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“We’re not in the clear,” Hoxsie said. “We still have strong high pressure in the West, specifically [the] Southwest, so it could shift back to the West enough to put us right back into the heat.”

The record temperatures are also making life more difficult for firefighters, who are battling big blazes across the state, including near Lake Piru in Ventura County and in the Mojave National Preserve, where the Dome fire has burned more than 43,000 acres and destroyed swaths of Joshua trees.


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