Just like current fashion trends and music, the 90s are returning.

The current heat wave that has seen temperatures soar to 112 degrees on the Westside and stress the state’s electrical grid is expected to finally break on Saturday when the forecasted temperature is 97 degrees, followed by a downright pleasant 94 degrees.

Pacific Gas and Electric, which serves the Westside issued a warning Tuesday that rotating power outages were possible for Tuesday as the state baked under the high temperatures.

Tuesday marked the seventh consecutive day the state’s grid operator, the California Independent System Operator called a Flex Alert. The alerts urged consumers to reduce their energy consumption between 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. to help reduce stress on the statewide power grid. A series of days of record-high temperatures created an enormous demand for energy to power air conditioners, among other challenges.

Tuesday was among the most challenging days ever for the state’s energy grid. CAISO forecasted Tuesday’s peak statewide electricity demand to be 50,087 megawatts, which is just below the record of 50,270 MW set in 2006.

“This is an extraordinary heat event we are experiencing, and the efforts by consumers to lean in and reduce their energy use after 4 p.m. are absolutely essential,” said Elliot Mainzer, the California Independent System Operator’s president and CEO. “Over the last several days we have seen a positive impact on lowering demand because of everyone’s help, but now we need a reduction in energy use that is two or three times greater than what we’ve seen so far as this historic heat wave continues to intensify.”

The ISO declared an Energy Emergency Alert 1 (EEA) Monday morning. That emergency designation signals to utilities and consumers that all resources are committed or forecasted to be in use, and that energy deficiencies are expected. As they monitor a host of factors including wildfires and generator availability, grid operators will determine if the emergency notifications need to be elevated to an EEA 2 or beyond. 

EEA 2 would trigger deployment of a suite of emergency tools designed to keep supply and demand for the power system balanced during extreme conditions, and potentially freeing up to a few thousand megawatts of additional resources. If conditions continue to deteriorate, an EEA 3 may be declared. If reserves are then exhausted CAISO would instruct utilities in its service area to manage shedding load. 

Utilities make the determination of how best to spread and rotate the outages across their service territory, with the goal of keeping them as short as possible. For two days in August 2020, outages affecting about 800,000 homes and businesses lasted anywhere from 15 minutes to about 2½ hours, marking the first time outages were ordered in California due to insufficient supplies in nearly 20 years. 

“We never want to get to that point, of course,” Mainzer said, “but we want everyone to be prepared and understand what is at stake. We can’t control the weather, but we really can bend the demand curve and get through this successfully if everyone doubles down and reduces their energy use as much as possible.”

The continued high temperatures poses serious health risks, especially for those that are considered more vulnerable, like the elderly, young children and those with certain medical conditions. But once it gets to a certain level, like what has been seen over the last several days, it becomes a health risk for everyone. The National Weather Service has the HeatRisk index for most of the state in the magenta zone, which means there is a very high health risk for everyone because of the prolonged high heat exposure and very little relief coming overnight. The index does not have anything higher than magenta.

Extreme heat can cause people to suffer from heat-related illness, and even death because their bodies cannot properly cool down. More than 700 people die from extreme heat every year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC recommends people take these steps when tempera

tures are extremely high:

Stay in an air-conditioned indoor location as much as you can.

Drink plenty of fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty.

Schedule outdoor activities carefully.

Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and sunscreen.

Pace yourself.

Take cool showers or baths to cool down.

Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.

Never leave children or pets in cars.

Check the local news for health and safety updates.

Under these extreme conditions, wildfire smoke could drive air quality up to unhealthy levels. Poor air quality can trigger asthma attacks, aggravate chronic bronchitis, and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Individuals with heart or lung disease should follow their doctors’ advice for dealing with episodes of particulate matter exposure. Those with existing respiratory conditions, including COVID-19, young children and the elderly, are especially susceptible to the health effects from this form of pollution, according to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

Some industries, like construction and yard maintenance can shift around work schedules to keep employees out of the hottest times of the day, but other sectors, like that of public safety, can do little but grin and bear it.

Westside Community Ambulance Chief Michael Courtney said they had responded to several heat-related calls. They also were taking precautions to keep staff from falling victim to the extreme heat by making sure they stay hydrated and avoiding prolonged outdoor exposure, at much as possible.

Newman Fire Chief Keith Bowen said the department takes several steps to help firefighters deal with the extreme heat, including using a buddy system to watch for signs of heat-related illnesses, taking water breaks and removing bulky equipment in a rotation at large incidents, keeping cold water on hand at calls, wearing sunscreen, keeping the daily workload outside of calls down to a minimum and encouraging them to wear the lightest form of personal protective equipment for the task at hand.

“For example, on medical aids firefighters will be seen wearing t-shirts as part of their uniform versus wearing a Nomex uniform shirt,” Bowen said. “At motor vehicle collisions firefighters will be seen wearing wildland jackets versus their heavier structure fire jackets.”

Gustine Police Chief Ruben Chavez said officers don’t have the option of wearing less of their equipment.

“We tell them to drink lots of water and try their best to stay out of the sun,” Chavez said.

Cooling centers are available for Westside residents who need a respite from the heat. In Newman, the centers are at: Newman Public Library 1305 Kern Street, Newman Family Resource Center 1300 Patchett Drive, and Newman Teen Center 831 Hardin Road.

In Gustine, cooling centers are at the Gustine Community Center and Library, both located at 205 Sixth Street.

Westside Cooling Centers

Gustine Community Center

205 Sixth Street

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday–Tuesday

Gustine Library

205 Sixth Street

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday–Thursday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

Newman Public Library

1305 Kern Street

2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday

12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday

11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

Newman Family Resource Center 1300 Patchett Drive

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Friday

Closed daily from noon to 1 p.m. 

Newman Teen Center

831 Hardin Road

Only open to those in 6th through 12th grades, 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday