California faces power shortage as fires threaten electric lines

Several people, one holding a water bottle, stand next to an awning and beneath a spray of water.
Customers cool off at a restaurant mister in Palm Springs on Thursday as the temperature hit 110. The city set records for heat last week.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Amid record-breaking temperatures and raging wildfires, California’s energy operator has issued another Flex Alert in an effort to stabilize the state’s electric grid.

Over the weekend, a fast-moving wildfire in Oregon knocked out some transmission lines that carry electricity into California, reducing power supplies by as much as 3,500 megawatts, the California Independent System Operator said. The lines remained unreliable Monday.

Residents are being asked to conserve as much electricity as possible from 4 to 9 p.m. to reduce stress on the system — particularly as continuing high temperatures across the West increase demand.


The National Weather Service said the blistering heat wave that blanketed Southern California this weekend would continue through Monday, with highs well into the 100s across interior areas.

Already this year, there have been more than twice as many acres burned than during the same period last year — and hundreds more fires.

July 27, 2021

Excessive heat warnings have been issued for the Antelope Valley, interior San Luis Obispo County and Cuyama, areas where temperatures could climb as high as 115 degrees.

Heat advisories also have been issued across Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, the Los Angeles County mountains and the Santa Clarita Valley, which could soar to 109 degrees, forecasters said.

The sizzling conditions will meet with low humidity levels and gusty afternoon winds, said Joe Sirard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, leading to elevated fire conditions across Southern California.

California’s wildfire season is already outpacing last year’s — the worst on record — according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Over the weekend, the Sugar fire in Plumas National Forest mushroomed to 83,000 acres, becoming the state’s largest wildfire of the year.

As a wildfire in Oregon approaches transmission lines connecting to California, Gov. Gavin Newsom signs an order to relieve pressure on the power grid.

July 11, 2021

As of Monday morning, the fire had grown again to 89,078 acres, with only 8% containment, officials said.


But there is some relief on the horizon, as the heat wave is expected to break into a gradual cooling trend beginning Tuesday.

“Today is going to be the last day of extreme heat,” Sirard said. “It’ll still be hot in those interior areas but likely not hot enough to have advisories.”

Meanwhile, multiple temperature records were set over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

Palmdale on Sunday hit 111 degrees, beating its July 11 record of 110 degrees set in 1961.

Lancaster soared to 113, beating its previous record of 111 set in 2012. Sandberg tied its 1934 record of 98 degrees.

And in Palm Springs, Saturday’s high of 120 degrees broke the daily record of 119 degrees set in 2012.


Swaths of California saw record-breaking temperatures this weekend amid an intense heat wave that has increased fire risks and strained the energy grid.

July 12, 2021

Meteorologist Miguel Miller with the National Weather Service in San Diego said it was the fourth time Palm Springs had hit 120 or higher this year. The previous record — five times in one year — was set in 2020, he said.

“It’s definitely above normal,” he said. “Of course, it seems like we have a new normal.”

Death Valley also saw extreme temperatures during the latest heat wave. On Friday, it reached 130 degrees, breaking its daily record of 129 set in 1913, according to meteorologist Chelsea Peters at the National Weather Service in Las Vegas.

The all-time high remains 134 degrees, set in 1913, she said.

Cal ISO’s Flex Alert followed similar requests issued Friday and Saturday.

On Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order to secure additional power, which helped maintain grid stability through the weekend, the agency said. The executive order remained in place Monday.

During a Flex Alert, residents are advised to set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, if health permits, turn off unnecessary lights and avoid using major appliances.