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Heat storm entering 3rd day
PG&E asks power users to conserve; air quality dips
Kayakers stay cool at the McHenry Recreation Area on the Stanislaus River a few miles east of Ripon. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The South County is now in its third of at least five consecutive 100-degree plus days.

Elsewhere in the San Joaquin Valley the National Weather Service is forecasting readings as high as 112 degrees today. It has prompted the issuance of an excessive heat watch for the San Joaquin Valley. The heat watch is in effect from this afternoon through Sunday evening for Mariposa, Merced, Madera, and Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties

People are being urged to drink plenty of water, check on elderly family members, stay indoors and minimize physical activity in those seven counties as well as San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties as well.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is warning air quality in San Joaquin County and the rest of the northern SJ Valley today will be unhealthy for sensitive groups engaging in physical activity. For the Fresno area and Sequoia National Park the air quality is expected to be unhealthy for all people.

“We refer to situations like this as a heat storm,” noted PG&E spokesperson Nicole Leibelt.

The utility had much of it service territory inundated with 100 degree plus temperatures Wednesday and Thursday. They expect the situation to remain the same through Sunday.

The official high Thursday in Manteca as recorded at the weather service’s Civic Center station was 104 degrees.

They are asking people to conserve power whenever possible between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. to reduce the potential for problems. Today is expected to be the most critical day since power loads shift on Saturday and Sunday when the majority of major employers such as factories and offices are closed.

On Thursday statewide demand for power peaked at 45,324 kilowatt hours to whittle the cushion of available power down to less than 5,000 kilowatt hours. While there was adequate electricity, PG&E’s concern is that long-term sustained high demand works their equipment harder increasing the changes for something to go wrong.

“It is like running your car’s engine for three or so days straight at 100 mph,” noted PG&E’s Jeff Smith who is based out of Fresno.

By cutting back on use especially during peak hours, pressure can be taken off the power supply and distribution system time to reduce the chances of problems developing. Liebelt noted that accidents such as the one that took out several power poles in Manteca last week, have a ripple effect during heat storms. That’s because heavy loads reduces the ability of PG&E to reroute electricity deliveries to customers. That in turn prolongs power outrages tied to every day mishaps.

Among recommended energy conservation tips from PG&E are to:

• Set your air conditioner thermostat to 78 degrees or higher when you’re at home, health permitting, and 85 degrees when you’re away.

• Setting your AC thermostat 5 degrees higher will save about 10 percent on cooling costs.

• Shut windows and draw the shades to keep in pre-cooled air from the night and early morning.

• Have your central cooling duct system checked for leaks. Up to 20 percent of cooled air can be lost through leaky or poorly insulated ducts.

• Buy an Energy Star air conditioner if your air conditioner is ready to be replaced. It can reduce energy usage by up to 10 percent.

• Avoid using an electric oven on hot days. Instead, cook on the stove, use a microwave oven, or grill outside.