Sweltering Heat, Heavy Smog Envelope Bay Area

Sweltering Heat, Heavy Smog Envelope Bay Area

7 July 2008

published by www.foxreno.com

USA — A heat wave is expected to grip most of California through the rest of the week, prompting state officials to urge energy conservation and open cooling centers.

Temperatures were expected to climb close to 110 degrees Tuesday in some parts of the Central Valley.

The National Weather Service declared a heat warning in the Red Bluff and Redding areas of far Northern California after record-breaking temperatures on Monday. The 112 degree reading at Redding Municipal Airport broke the previous record for July 7 of 108 degrees set in 1989.

The California Independent System Operator, the agency that monitors the state’s power grid, said peak energy demand could approach the record set in July 2006. The agency projected peak use Tuesday of nearly 49,000 megawatts, just shy of the 50,270 megawatt record. A megawatt is enough electricity for about 750 homes.

The grid monitor asked utility consumers to reduce power use in the late afternoon when air conditioners drive electricity use the highest point of the day.

No blackouts were expected, but grid monitors are concerned that some transmission lines could be in danger from the hundreds of wildfires burning across California or that a power plant could be forced to shut down unexpectedly.

“If something breaks, that has the potential to really put us behind the eight ball,” said Gregg Fishman, a spokesman for the Independent System Operator.

Wednesday is likely to be even hotter before temperatures begin to dip later in the week, said National Weather Service forecaster George Cline. Even so, temperatures are expected to remain above 100 degrees throughout the weekend in much of the Central Valley.

Smoke from the wildfires could help keep temperatures a few degrees lower in some areas, even as it increases health risks. At night, the smoke acts like a blanket, holding in the heat, Cline said.

State agencies were prepared to open cooling centers if needed. Officials also were checking regularly for heat problems at hospitals and centers serving the elderly and those with disabilities.

Officials urged those unable to get to cooling centers to visit libraries or malls to stay cool.

No immediate health-related problems had been reported, said Tina Walker, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Emergency Services.

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