A brutal heat wave engulfed the American West on Tuesday, bringing record-breaking temperatures. California To edge ordering rolling blackouts.
Western states are battling through one of the hottest and longest September heat waves ever. Temperatures began to rise last week and the National Weather Service (NWS) warned that dangerous heat could continue into Friday.
Sacramento, California’s state capital, broke a 97-year-old record on Tuesday with an all-time high of 116F (46.7C). Six locations along the San Francisco Bay Area and Central Coast recorded all-time highs, including Santa Rosa with 115F (46C).
In a neighboring country NevadaReno’s 106F (41C) on Tuesday was its warmest day on record for September, breaking the previous record for the date of 96F (35.5C) set in 1944. It came within two degrees of any given day or month. According to the National Weather Service, 108F (42C) was set in July 2002 and equaled in July 2007.
In Salt Lake City, a city at an elevation of 4,000 feet (1,219 m), temperatures were about 20 degrees above normal, hitting 105F (40.5C) on Tuesday, the hottest September day on record since 1874.
The intense heat on Tuesday warned California officials that demand for electricity, some of it from people with air conditioning, may outstrip supply.
The California Independent System Operator (Caiso), which oversees the power grid, issued a level three emergency power warning, a step down from initiating a rotating outage to reduce the strain on the system.
But the grid managed to handle the record-breaking demand. The peak power demand on Tuesday reached 52,061 MW, higher than the 50,270 MW set on 24 July 2006.
While there were no major outages, two outages were reported in the San Francisco Bay Area cities of Palo Alto and Alameda, affecting several thousand customers for about an hour.
About 35,700 people lost power in Silicon Valley and the southern and inner San Francisco Bay Area, and most of the outages were heat-related, Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PG&E) Jason King said Tuesday evening. There is no word on when power will be restored.
Meanwhile, high temperatures fueled wildfires in northern and southern California. Four deaths were reported over the Labor Day weekend, and about 4,400 firefighters battled 14 large blazes across the state, with 45 new blazes Sunday alone, said Anale Parlew, deputy chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).
Two people were killed in a wildfire that started Friday in the Northern California community of Weed, and two people were killed Monday in a fast-spreading wildfire that broke out in Southern California’s Hemet area. Officials said they were found in the same area and died trying to escape the fire.
The extreme temperatures are the result of a “thermal dome” bearing down on the region – a ridge of high atmospheric pressure that acts as a lid, trapping heat. Although the climate crisis did not cause heat domes, scientists expect it to lead to more extreme weather.
Scientists say climate change over the past three decades has made the West hotter and drier and that more extreme weather will make wildfires more frequent and destructive. Over the past five years, California has experienced the largest and most destructive wildfires in the state’s history.