Death Valley hits a record 130 degrees, the hottest temperature since 1913; California heatwave prompts rolling blackout warning

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Parts of the Southern California desert experienced record-breaking heat on Sunday with Death Valley hitting 130 degrees — the hottest temperature the area has recorded since July 1913, according to the National Weather Service.

While other areas didn’t experience that drastic of a scorcher, the whole state is still in the midst of a heatwave, and most of Southern California is under an excessive heat warning through 10 p.m. Thursday. Hot and humid conditions are expected for the rest of the week for the Coachella Valley with temperatures hovering between 113 and 117 degrees. 

The Palm Springs area hit 113 degrees by late Sunday afternoon, barely missing the record temperature for the day. The record for Aug. 16 is 115, which was most recently hit in 2016, said Miguel Miller, National Weather Service meteorologist in San Diego.

The Palm Springs area has broken temperature records eight times so far this year, though – twice in April, twice in May, twice in July and twice so far in August.

The area has hit or surpassed 110 degrees 44 times so far in 2020, Miller said.

It’s not just heat: Lightning is being blamed for multiple fires in the Bay Area in recent days, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Forecasters say uncomfortable days still lay ahead.

“The humidity will make it feel hotter than it is,” National Weather Service meteorologist Brandt Maxwell said.

The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning that will be in effect through 9 p.m. Wednesday in the Riverside metropolitan area, the Riverside County mountains, the San Gorgonio Pass near Banning and the Coachella Valley.

Highs in the Coachella Valley were forecast to remain between 104 to 118 through Wednesday, according to the weather service. The mercury is expected to top out around 106 in areas west of the mountains during the heatwave.

Rolling power outages could resume across California

The heatwave baking California continued to strain the electrical system over the weekend.

Managers of California’s power grid issued a statewide Flex Alert on Sunday, calling for voluntary electricity conservation through Wednesday and warning of rolling blackouts amid record-breaking heat.

The Flex Alerts are in effect from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. each day.

The California Independent System Operator (ISO) said consumers should be prepared for likely rolling outages during the late afternoons and early evenings through Wednesday because there is not a sufficient amount of energy to meet the high amounts of demand during the heatwave.

California ISO ordered the first rolling outages in nearly 20 years on Friday when it directed utilities around the state to shed their power loads. 

The state’s three biggest utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric — turned off power to more than 410,000 homes and businesses for about an hour at a time until the emergency declaration ended 3½ hours later. 

The move came as temperatures around the state hit triple digits in many areas, and air conditioning use soared. 

The power grid is mostly stressed during the late afternoon and early evening because of higher demand and solar energy production falling. The state tried to prepare for the expected rise in electricity use by urging conservation and trying to buy more power. But a high-pressure system building over Western states meant there was less available

The last time the state ordered rolling outages was during an energy crisis in 2001. Blackouts occurred several times from January to May, including one that affected more than 1.5 million customers. The cause was a combination of energy shortages and market manipulation by energy wholesalers, infamously including Enron Corp., that drove up prices by withholding supplies.

Counties up and down the state reported scattered outages, although the city of Los Angeles, which has its own power generating system, wasn’t affected.

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