Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

SoCal heat wave: Here's how to stay cool, save energy and recognize health risks

by KPCC Staff | Take Two®

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File photo: The sun shines over towers carrying electrical lines August 30, 2007 in South San Francisco, California. Los Angeles saw records fall for both temperatures and power demand on Monday. While Tuesday was expected to bring some relief, it'll still be a hot one. Here are some safety tips for handling the heat. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As an intense heat wave spiked Monday, Southern California saw more records fall, and extreme energy demands led to outages that left thousands without power. Energy demand in Los Angeles hit record levels, according to the city’s Department of Water and Power.

The heavy power usage from DWP and other utility customers taxed the system and led to power outages across the region. At one point, 20,000 customers were affected, according to the Associated Press. At its peak Monday, about 23,700 customers were without power across Southern California Edison's service area.

“We didn’t know what to expect, just because we knew that we were going to have outages and people were going to need to conserve," Cox said. "We had our crews on standby and communicating to customers the need to conserve electricity, particularly during peak energy hours, which is noon to 6 p.m.”

As of Tuesday morning, there were still thousands of spot outages. Southern California Edison reported about 6,000 customers still without power in L.A. County alone as of 8 a.m., though that was quickly reduced to 75 customers, according to Cox. There were still 8,900 DWP customers without power as of late Tuesday morning, with widespread outages throughout their coverage area, according to DWP's Vonda Paige.

The Valley's largest outage was in Van Nuys, with 1,600 customers without power, while the L.A. metro area's largest outage was in Hancock Park with 1,900 without power, Paige said. There were no specific causes, but they were being attributed to the heat in general.

Power was also out for about 700 customers in both Orange and Riverside counties and about 640 customers in San Bernardino County. DWP reported Monday evening that about 5,000 of its customers were also without power.

Energy demand reached 6,080 megawatts on Monday, the hottest day of the heat wave. That was a record for the month of June and about 50 percent higher demand than a typical June day for L.A., though short of the all-time demand of nearly 6,400 megawatts set on Sept. 16, 2014, according to DWP.

The previous record energy demand for June was 6,053 megawatts, set on the same day in June 2008.

More heat records fall

Heat records were broken in several cities across Southern California for the second straight day Monday.

Palm Springs and Thermal both saw temperatures above 120 degrees. Burbank, Ontario, Riverside, Fullerton and other spots that saw record highs on Sunday set new records again on Monday.

Here’s a round-up of some of the record-breaking temperatures from around the region:

Location New Record Previous Record When
Burbank 111 106 2008
Camarillo 94 93 2008
LAX 95 86 2008
Lancaster 112 110 1961
Sandberg 100 96 2015
Fullerton 109 99 2008
John Wayne Airport 96 94 2008
Ontario 112 108 2008
Palm Springs 122 118 1929
Riverside 114 110 2008
Thermal 121 118 2008

Utilities urge customers to conserve

A Flex Alert issued Monday has expired, but DWP officials still urged customers to conserve energy to help avoid further outages.

“We’re asking customers to continue to conserve which is key. Customers really can help ease the burden of the system," SoCal Edison's Cox said.

DWP recommended setting thermostats to 78 degrees, turning off pool pumps and avoiding the use of big appliances like washing machines, dishwashers and vacuum cleaners during the day.

To keep your house cool without relying too heavily on the AC, you can also try keeping window curtains, shades or blinds closed to reduce the heat from direct sunlight.

The DWP also suggested unplugging your “energy vampires” — DVD players, microwave ovens and anything else that may draw energy even when not in use.

You can also consider leaving the house during the hottest part of the day and seeking out other cool spots, such as a movie theater or public library.

Check out another KPCC post for more heat hacks.

SoCal Edison also worked with state authorities to respond to the heat wave, Cox said.

How to stay safe in the heat

While the worst of the heat has passed, forecasters still expect high temperatures across Southern California.

Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the interim health officer and medical director for the L.A. County Department of Public Health, warned residents to respect the heat.

“First of all, people have to realize that when there’s high levels of heat, it’s not just an inconvenience. It really can be dangerous and death can occur,” Gunzenhauser said, speaking with Take Two.

Gunzenhauser advised the public to plan ahead and avoid activities that might put them at risk of heat-related illnesses, and take steps to protect family and pets.

So what are those heat illnesses, and how do you recognize when you’re at risk? There are three basic stages — heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke — each more serious than the last. Children and the elderly are most at risk.

Heat cramps

Heat cramps occur if you exert yourself heavily in really warm temperatures. You may feel cramps in the abdomen, legs or even arms, Gunzenhauser said. Heat cramps should be taken as a sign to take extra precautions so you don’t advance to more serious heat conditions, he said.

Heat exhaustion

The signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, dizziness, headache, muscle cramps and even nausea or vomiting. These are all signs that your body has overheated, but the sweating indicates that you haven’t yet advanced to the next stage. Gunzenhauser said that, at this point, you should seek shade, drink fluids and consider wetting your clothes — the evaporation can help cool you more quickly.

Heatstroke

With heatstroke, a person’s internal temperature becomes very high — as much as 105 degrees or even higher. The body has lost its ability to cool itself. A person with heatstroke may be unconscious or dizzy and may not respond appropriately. The skin can feel clammy or dry, because the body’s sweat function has stopped working. Heatstroke is a medical emergency, Gunzenhauser said — so if someone appears to have it, call 911 immediately, get the person lying down and try to cool them off.

In Southern California, fires often come along with extreme heat, and that means air quality can suffer. Several fires were burning throughout Southern California Tuesday, and Gunzenhauser said people with asthma or other respiratory conditions that make it hard to breathe should avoid outdoor activities or, if possible, head to an area without air quality issues.

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