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Heat Wave Challenges Power Grid

Forget about California cool.

That's what folks in the San Francisco area are being forced to do, in the midst of a heat wave that is putting a strain on the power supply.

The mercury hit 92 degrees, a record, in Oakland Tuesday, while soaring to not historic but certainly steamy highs of 91 in San Francisco, 100 in Santa Rosa, 101 in Napa and 102 in Livermore.

Record-breaking temperatures are forecast for Wednesday.

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Air conditioners account for a third of the power used during heat waves and California's power grid is feeling the pressure.

The Independent System Operator (ISO), which manages most of the grid, got emergency electricity supplies Tuesday from the federal Bonneville Power Administration and the Western Power Administration.

ISO spokesman Patrick Dorinson says the state got through the afternoon crunch by means of the imported power, plus cuts of power to "interruptible" industrial customers.

Those are utility customers who buy their power at a discount on the understanding that it can be cut if electricity supplies run dangerously low.

Further aggravating the situation has been the fact that several California power plants are temporarily shut down for maintenance and repairs, after running hard all summer to keep pace with demand.

The seasonal drop in water levels on Pacific Northwest rivers, usually a major source of hydroelectric power for the California market, has also cut into available supplies from out of state.

The ISO has declared a Stage 2 emergency, which may mean voluntary outages among some commercial and industrial customers. The agency and power companies across the state have appealed to consumers to reduce energy use.

"The consumers are doing things but what are the big boys doing? Are they looking at all the things we can do to save energy?" asked Lyn Sacco, an architect, who works out of her Oakland home. She said she is taking measures to conserve, but she won't turn off her computer. "I can't afford to lose the business."

"It's hot," said Sandra Threl Fall, while taking a walk around Oakland's Lake Merritt. "I plan to go into hibernation. I don't plan to do much this afternoon."

Oakland Parks and Recreation Department worker Jorge Paz has his own system for making the best of things. "We're just trying to work the best we can, then get in the shade. Work a little, then go to the shade. Take care of yourself."

Across the bay in San Francisco, where summer usually means overcast, chilly and foggy days, some were taken by surprise and others were delighted.

Andy Wyss, a Swiss tourist, was unprepared for the heat. "I thought it would be rainy days, foggy days," he said. "I thought San Francisco wasn't that hot."

But residents were enjoying themselves. "Days like this you have to eat outside," said Mike Leon, who lives and works in San Francisco and was downtown on his lunch break. "There's only 10 daya year you can actually do it."

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