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Record high temps prompt concerns about California's power supply

By DON THOMPSON Associated Press Writer SACRAMENTO (AP) -- Some businesses were ordered to cut electrical use on Monday amid calls for statewide conservation efforts as California's unseasonable heat wave produced record highs ranging from the 90s to more than 110.

Power producers were in the midst of gearing up for summer when the high temperatures settled in, said Patrick Dorinson, a spokesman for the California Independent System Operator, which oversees the flow of electricity across the state.

Scheduled power-plant maintenance shutdowns timed for late May cut available power by 6,000 megawatts just as the state needed the extra electricity. The ISO began enforcing conservation measures and started shopping for power from out of state Monday to make up the shortfall.

At midmorning, the ISO declared a "stage one emergency," asking for voluntary conservation measures by business and residential consumers.

In early afternoon, the ISO asked businesses to shut down if they are participating in a program that gives lower rates to those that agree to stop using power during times of high demand.

Dorinson couldn't say how many businesses or employees were affected by what the ISO terms a "stage two emergency." Southern California Edison spokesman Gil Alexander said several hundred businesses were affected in Southern California alone.

"We're doing everything we can to get out a conservation message to our customers," Alexander said.

Record heat occurred for the third straight day over several areas of Southern California, with desert readings leading the way.

Palm Springs had a high of 113 on Monday, breaking a record for the date of 111 set in 1967. Borrego Springs east of the San Diego County mountains had a high of 111, erasing a record of 106 set in 1988.

Near the coast midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Paso Robles hit 108 on Monday, well above its previous 100 mark set in 1967.

Some pockets of the state were not overwhelming hot, however, including the northwest corner of Los Angeles, where a southwesterly flow of air from the ocean off Long Beach brought cool air, said meteorologist Bill Hoffer at the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

In the Chatsworth section of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, the temperature was 89, down 17 degrees from Sunday. Downtown had a high of only 76, 18 degrees below the record for the date set in 1967.

"It was a bit cooler in some areas today, and we expect conditions about the same again tomorrow," said meteorologist Mark Moede at the National Weather Service in San Diego. "We'll have clouds and some dense fog near the coast, but it will be sunny and hot again over the mountains and deserts."

Other record highs for May 22 were 105 at Beaumont, 102 each at San Bernardino and Lancaster, 96 at San Luis Obispo and 92 at Mount Wilson just north of Los Angeles.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District declared Monday the first Spare the Air day of 2000, asking residents to cut their use of cars and gas-powered equipment.

With temperatures near 90 on Monday afternoon, residents in about 700 homes in Stanton and Cypress also were warned by Southern California Water Co. not to drink tap water until tests show it is safe.

Water company spokeswoman Lisa Lawson said the foaming chemical "silv-ex" used by firefighters got into the water supply Sunday -- possibly from backflow to a hydrant.

Notices were delivered door-to-door, and bottled water was made available for residents at a company office in neighboring Los Alamitos or was delivered to homes.

The ISO's Dorinson said decisions on conservation measures Tuesday will be made as conditions warrant.

"We expect this weather to break by midweek," he said.

Record May temperatures do not necessarily mean problems this summer, Dorinson added.

"We are anticipating a more normal summer," he said. "The predictions I've seen for a hot-hot summer are about 5 percent probability."

For those who wanted an immediate cool escape, Squaw Valley ski resort near Lake Tahoe was fighting to hang on to enough snow to keep its upper run open through Memorial Day weekend.

The resort also has reopened for the Independence Day weekend the last two years, but that's looking doubtful this year, spokeswoman Katja Dahl said.

-- Martin Thompson (, May 23, 2000

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