Newsom declares state of emergency for California wildfires amid extreme heat wave

California's power grid operators are keeping a wary eye on the thermometer as a heat wave continues to stress the electrical system.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020
CA Flex Alert remains in effects as heat wave continues
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With the hottest temperatures of the week expected Tuesday, California could see more rolling blackouts.

As California firefighters battle a series of wildfire amid extreme heat conditions, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday declared a statewide emergency to help provide them with extra resources.

The governor had already declared an emergency for the extreme heat the state is facing. The new order will provide a range of help to Californians impacted by the fires and firefighters who need assistance.

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

A copy of the governor's proclamation is available here.

His order comes as California's power grid operators continue to keep a wary eye on the thermometer as a heat wave continues to stress the electrical system.

The state avoided a third day of rolling blackouts on Monday, but officials warned of the possibility of more power interruptions to ease pressure on the electric grid.

RELATED: Stage 2 emergency declaration lifted for California, no rolling blackouts on Monday

The California Independent System Operator had expected to make utilities start rotating blackouts to as many as 3.3 million homes and businesses on Monday. But the grid operator didn't push the emergency button, saying slightly lower temperatures and customer conservation eased the load.

The National Weather Service noted that some coastal areas on Monday saw significantly decreased temperatures -- "in some cases by as much as 15-20 degrees'' -- in the morning and early afternoon hours thanks to lingering low clouds. But that relief wasn't expected to last. Tuesday, which ABC7 meteorologist Leslie Lopez says will be the hottest day of the week, is expected to produce sweltering temperatures and a heightened risk of wildfires that would last at least through Thursday.

Flex Alerts urging customers across the state to conserve energy will be in effect each afternoon and evening through Wednesday.

Residents are being asked to use air conditioning early in the day and set thermostats at 78 in the afternoon and evening hours, while avoiding the use of major appliances between the hours of 3 and 10 p.m.

Officials were also urging businesses statewide to restrict their usage. In some cases, the state is asking business owners to support outreach to their customers about conserving energy.

On Monday, Newsom warned Californians to be prepared for more rolling blackouts over the next 72 hours -- which he called "very likely'' -- as the state struggles to meet demand for electricity during a historic, record-breaking heat wave.

RELATED: Gov. Gavin Newsom says power outages 'very likely' through Wednesday, announces changes to COVID-19 watch list

Newsom is also demanding an investigation into two smaller blackouts on Friday and Saturday. Temperatures are expected to hit triple digits again in many areas.

"You can't control the weather but you can prepare for weather events,'' Newsom said during a Monday press conference. "We failed to prepare.''

The governor said the state should have been better prepared to avoid unscheduled blackouts.

"Let me just make this crystal clear, we failed to predict and plan these shortages, and that's simply unacceptable," he said. "I'm the governor, I'm ultimately accountable, and will ultimately take responsibility -- have taken, I assure you, responsibility -- to immediately address this issue and move forward to make sure this simply never happens again here in the state of California."

The heat wave is the fourth to attack the region this summer as well as the longest and fiercest. It is caused by a strong ridge of high pressure anchored over Nevada, forecasters said.

Monday afternoon, the NWS reported temperature record highs for an August 17 in Lancaster, which reached 110 degrees, and Palmdale, which reached 111.

Orange County temperatures are expected to reach triple-digit territory for the first time since the heat wave began.

An excessive heat warning, which has been extended since it was first issued last week, will be in force until 9 p.m. Thursday in the San Fernando, Santa Clarita, San Gabriel and Antelope valleys, as well as the San Gabriel and Santa Monica mountains. The weather service said conditions in those areas will be "dangerously hot.'' In inland Orange County and the Santa Ana Mountains, the warning will expire at 10 p.m. Thursday.

Along with torrid weather, the NWS forecast "elevated fire danger.'' The NWS has not issued any red flag warnings because winds have not been strong enough to meet NWS criteria, according to forecasters.

FULL FORECAST: Sizzling heat wave continues Tuesday

The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.