And that was only Day One. A relentless heat wave is expected to blanket California through the middle of next week, sending temperatures soaring past 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) in some parts. People blasting their air conditioners and fans to keep cool are straining the region's power system and raising the specter of a repeat of Friday's sudden and largely unannounced outages.
It started at about 6:30 p.m. local time on Friday, when California's grid operator determined through a complex calculation that the state's power reserves had fallen below a critical threshold and called a Stage 3 grid emergency, which triggers what it describes as "load interruption." The last time such a declaration was made during the 2000 and 2001 electricity crisis, hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses took turns being plunged into darkness, power prices surged to a record and the state's largest utility was forced into bankruptcy.