Monday, August 17, 2020 - 09:45

(TNS) - A late-summer heat wave in Southern California typically sends people fleeing to movie theaters, shopping malls and crowded beaches in search of a cool respite.

But the coronavirus pandemic has forced the closure of places where people once gathered, upending those routines.

So as temperatures soared Friday, many people instead stayed at home with their air conditioners blasting. Even though many offices and businesses were closed due to the pandemic, that intense demand — along with other factors including a dearth of power coming in from other states — was enough to create the most serious statewide energy shortage in nearly 20 years, officials said. On Saturday night, another round of temporary blackouts was ordered in parts of the state.

The California Independent System Operator, the body that runs the electric grid for most of California, declared a statewide Stage 3 emergency Friday evening and ordered utilities to shed about 1,000 megawatts, prompting rolling blackouts across the state. A single megawatt powers about 750 homes, spokeswoman Anne Gonzales said.

It was the first time since 2001 that state electric grid operators have had to take the drastic step.

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