Scorching weather could come with blackouts, utility warns

PG&E is encouraging customers around the Bay Area to prepare for excessive heat Friday that could contribute to power outages, but the California Independent System Operator says supply shortages are not anticipated statewide because of the hot weather.

Temperatures in the East Bay and further inland could reach into the lower 100s on Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

The highs forecast for Piedmont are 86 degrees on Friday and 80 degrees on Saturday.

PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian said in an email that this could be an “all-hands on deck event,” and said crews will be out and ready to respond to heat-related outages.

Officials at CAISO, which manages electricity over the state’s high-voltage transmission lines, said although hot weather is forecast in much of California on Friday, the Pacific Northwest is forecast for cooler than normal temperatures, so additional resources will be available if needed, so there are no plans for a “flex alert,” a notice to encourage customers to voluntarily reduce power consumption.

Sarkissian said transformer failure is the main cause of outages during excessive heat. Transformers help distribute power from the grid to homes and businesses, and require time to cool down, especially at night, she said. When temperatures stay high overnight, the components in the transformers can become overheated and fail.

Transformers can fail more often in coastal areas with more moderate average temperatures, because many inland areas have equipment designed to handle hotter weather.

If the power does go out, PG&E officials recommend having a fully charged cellphone, as well as flashlights, radios, and batteries nearby. People should unplug all electronics besides one lamp to alert when the power is back on, and then turn appliances on one-by-one when the power is restored. The utility also recommends that residents place extra ice inside their freezer and refrigerator and keep the doors closed; and that they make sure any generator is installed by a licensed professional.

PG&E crews receive regular heat safety tips, especially before working during a heat event, according to Sarkissian. Co-workers are trained in first aid and monitor each other for signs of heat exhaustion, cramps, or stroke. Crews are to stop working if they recognize these signs.

PG&E maintains a list of current outages HERE.

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