FRESNO, Calif. -- Californians were asked to voluntarily shut off their air conditioners and lights as a fourth day of soaring temperatures frazzled the state's power grid.
Demand for electricity reached near-record levels by noon Tuesday, prompting the state's electricity traffic control center to declare an emergency.
By Tuesday evening, the statewide electric system was taxed to about 95 percent of its capacity and officials said that if demand surpassed 98 percent, they'd begin to implement rolling blackouts around the state.
Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric all asked their larger customers to voluntarily reduce power usage.
Consumption peaked at 43,503 megawatts at 3:50 p.m., short of the record of 45,884 megawatts set on July 14, 1999, when no emergency was issued.
Oregon and Washington sent 5,200 megawatts of power to California "and it helped us out tremendously," said Stephanie McCorkle, a spokeswoman for California Independent System Operator, which manages electricity flow to 75 percent of the state's power grid.
California's statewide heat wave brought triple-digit temperatures to Central Valley towns. Bakersfield reached a high of 106 degrees, Redding topped 109, and Red Bluff reached a high of 109 degrees.
While the dramatic temperatures continued to bake the Central Valley, residents in that heat-scorched region endured with little complaint.
Hospitals reported few heat-related illnesses and no fatalities.
"I think people who live in the valley and have grown up here are pretty much used to taking it easy when it gets hot and they know the tips for trying to keep cool," said David DeButts, a spokesman for Kaiser Permanente in Fresno.
On the Net:
California Independent System Operator: http://www.caiso.com
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