California Governor Gavin Newsom Declares Statewide Emergency, Mobilizes National Guard Amid Fires, Record Heat, “Imminent” Rolling Power Outages That Could Hit Millions

Published by DEADLINE.COM

Summary generated on August 18, 2020

    California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency to help ensure the availability of vital resources to combat fires burning across the state, which have been exacerbated by the effects of the historic West Coast heat wave and sustained high winds.

    "We are deploying every resource available to keep communities safe as California battles fires across the state during these extreme conditions," said Governor Newsom.

    "California and its federal and local partners are working in lockstep to meet the challenge and remain vigilant in the face of continued dangerous weather conditions."

    The declaration includes a mobilization of the California National Guard, to assist local agencies with the multiple ongoing emergencies.

    Newsom's order states that "There are currently hundreds of fires actively burning during these extreme weather conditions throughout California." And "The number of fires actively burning statewide, as well as throughout other Western states, has resulted in a strain on California's mutual aid system, making it increasingly difficult for jurisdictions to obtain the necessary in-state and out-of-state firefighting resources to respond to these fires."

    The state of emergency came not long after the non-profit corporation that controls much of California's energy grid issued a Stage 2 Alert, saying "Rotating power outages" were "Imminemt."

    On a call with reporters, Steve Berberich, the CEO of the state's Independent Service Operator, which runs the power grid indicated severe strain on the electrical system and strongly encouraged residents and businesses to conserve power.

    Rolling blackouts will occur if the California Independent System Operator moves to a Stage 3 emergency, he said.

    Berberich said the system was expected to fall short by about 2,700 megawatts Tuesday evening.

    That's the equivalent of nearly three nuclear plants and enough electricity for the needs of about about 2 million customers.

    The ISO declared a Stage 2 emergency at 2 p.m. That is the last step before it orders blackouts.

    Berberich said power outages could begin around 4 p.m. The state faced an even more dire prospect on Monday.

    It was able to avoid blackouts on Monday despite going to Stage 3 because, according to Berberich, word got out and consumers cut power usage.

    Just hours earlier, President Trump claimed that Democrats were to blame for California's blackouts on Friday and Saturday.

    State officials blamed the weather, a power plant shutdown and a sudden, short lack of wind at energy-generating turbines this weekend.

    "On Saturday night," said Berberich, "We were within an hour of being able to service the load without incidentWe lost a 400 MW unit and, the wind had been every good, but ran out. If the wind hadn't run out on us, we would have been ok."

    Berberich confirmed that the 130 degrees seen in Death Valley on Saturday is the highest reliably-recorded temperature even measured on Earth: "We have confirmed that the Death Valley temperature was the highest ever on earth."

    It was so hot that as temperatures in nearby Lake Tahoe broke a record this weekend, the National Weather Service in Reno, Nevada issued an alert for "Tornadic pyrocumulus" or "Fire Tornadoes."

    Below is footage of a fire tornado seen near Redding, CA in July.