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California braces for dangerous heat wave, possible blackouts

California is bracing for a prolonged "heat dome," with temperatures soaring as high as 115 degrees through Monday, and residents are being asked to conserve power to avoid blackouts. File photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/956ffad6c10346e6a5a4c9a9c31a2963/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
California is bracing for a prolonged "heat dome," with temperatures soaring as high as 115 degrees through Monday, and residents are being asked to conserve power to avoid blackouts. File photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 31 (UPI) -- California is bracing for the worst heat wave of the year, as experts warn record temperatures for the next six days could lead to blackouts.

A "dangerous heat warning" is in effect from Wednesday through Monday, according to the National Weather Service, as a "heat dome" is expected to drive peak temperatures from San Diego to Sacramento to highs of 112 degrees through Saturday and up to 115 degrees on Sunday and Monday.

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"An impactful, long duration heat wave is expected from the beaches to the desert through Labor Day. High to very high heat risk will impact the coast and valleys by Sunday and Monday," the NWS in San Diego tweeted. "Plan ahead now so you can stay cool and hydrated, especially if you have outdoor plans."

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"The entire state is likely to be very hot away from the immediate beaches, and it might even get pretty hot there," said UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain, adding that the most extreme temperatures are expected in central and northern California, including the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys and the eastern San Francisco Bay Area.

The California Independent System Operator is urging residents to conserve power throughout the next six days and into the holiday weekend to avoid blackouts. Peak load is expected to exceed 48,000 megawatts on Labor Day.

"If weather or grid conditions worsen, the ISO may issue a series of emergency notifications to access additional resources and prepare market participants and the public for potential energy shortages and the need to conserve," CAISO said in a statement. "The power grid operator expects to call on Californians for voluntary energy conservation via Flex alerts over the long weekend."

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Calls to conserve power between the hours of 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. include setting air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, turning off unnecessary lights and large appliances, and abstaining from charging electric vehicles.

"Lowering electricity use during that time will ease strain on the system, and prevent more drastic measures, including rotating power outages," CAISO said.

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In addition to power grid concerns, state officials are preparing for more wildfires with 60% of California still under extreme drought conditions.

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As state officials warn California residents about the prolonged heat wave, climatologists point out the impact of heat domes caused by persistent atmospheric high pressure at the end of the summer is getting worse with climate change.

"This is going to be a long-duration event," said Swain. "And that's sort of characteristic of heat domes -- that's partly because they can sort of be self-persisting, self-reinforcing. Once they develop and become particularly extreme, they kind of become hard to dislodge."

As temperatures begin to soar, residents are being told to hydrate and stay indoors as much as possible during the extreme heat between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun is the strongest. Heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke, can kill children and the elderly who are the most vulnerable.

"September is becoming a summer month," Swain said. "We're going to start off the month with record heat -- and there's every indication that the rest of the month is still likely to be mostly warmer than average."

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