While the rest of the country was distracted by the stimulus talks and the ongoing coronavirus situation, another deadly wildfire season has begun in California. And with the state’s prison population in the grips of an uncontrolled outbreak that has left thousands sickened and under quarantine orders – making them ineligible to fight fires – a dangerous heat wave is gripping the state, accelerating the spread of wildfires that broke out earlier this week, while also creating the state’s first “Stage 3” energy crisis in 20 years.
The relentless heat wave is expected to endure until mid-week, and is sending temperatures soaring to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, exacerbating the fire situation and forcing millions of Californians to endure rolling blackouts.
The situation is compounding Californians’ problems as a particularly dangerous time as hundreds of COVID patients depend on ventilators to breath. As officials issue warnings about energy use, strain on the grid due to air conditions and fans are threatening to cause a repeat of Friday’s rolling blackout over the weekend.
Friday’s blackout started at around 1830PT when California’s grid operator determined that the state’s power reserves had fallen below a critical threshold. The operator then called a “Stage 3 Grid Emergency”, which triggered the “load interruption” – aka the blackouts.
According to ABC News, this is the first round of “Stage 3” blackouts facing the state since the 2000-2001 energy crisis that forced the state’s largest utility – PG&E – into bankruptcy, and led to the ouster of former Gov Gray Davis. One key difference this time around is that PG&E is already in bankruptcy and pleading guilty to manslaughter.
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