Californians asked to cut power use as extreme heat approaches

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Customers cool off at a downtown restaurant in Palm Springs, California.
Customers cool off at a downtown restaurant in Palm Springs, California.
Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images


Californians were urged to ratchet down the use of electricity in their homes and businesses on Wednesday as a wave of extreme heat settles over much of the state, stretching tight power supplies to their breaking point.

Temperatures in the most populous state are forecast to climb to well above 38 degrees Celsius during the afternoon.

The extreme conditions are the latest sign of the impact of climate change in the US west, where wildfires and severe drought have emerged as a growing threat. As spells of excessive heat become more frequent, the strain on power and water utilities will become more acute, scientists say.

To prevent power outages, residents are asked to turn off lights and appliances and preset their thermostats to 26 degrees C. Reducing usage is especially critical from 16:00 to 21:00 local time, when demand across the state typically peaks and solar power generation begins to ebb.

The heat is also raising the risk of wildfires. The Wishon Fire, a 350-acre blaze in the Sequoia National Forest, was 35% contained.

On Tuesday, the US government warned that more drastic cuts in water usage were needed to protect dwindling supplies held in reservoirs that crucial to the well-being of seven western states.

Two critical reservoirs - Lake Mead and Lake Powell - have fallen to just above one-quarter of their capacity this summer. If they fall much lower, the lakes will be unable to generate hydroelectric power for millions of customers in the west, authorities say.

In the Northern California coastal community of Eureka for instance, a high of 43 degrees C was expected on Wednesday while farther north residents in Electric City, Washington, will see 105F, the National Weather Service said.

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