California Heat drains water jugs, power reserves : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Heat drains water jugs, power reserves By Dorothy Korber and Carrie Peyton Bee Staff Writers (Published Aug. 2, 2000)

Day 4 of triple-digit heat in the Sacramento region sapped human energy and drained electric reserves Tuesday as power companies warned customers to hike their thermostats and lower their lights. Although fears of rolling blackouts melted away by mid-afternoon Tuesday, continued conservation was urged todayas California flirts with near-record power use.

The human toll Tuesday was measured not in megawatts but beads of sweat. Across the region, soccer campers panted, water sliders squealed and emergency rooms filled with dehydrated athletes and gasping asthmatics.

The harsh truth: It's miserably hot in the Sacramento Valley with no relief in sight until the weekend.

Tuesday's high temperature in downtown Sacramento was 104, up from an overnight low of 72. By comparison, Los Angeles hit 97 Tuesday, San Francisco reached 88, Monterey was 75 and Eureka, 65.

Central Valley towns bore the brunt of the oppressive weather. By Tuesday evening, Bakersfield reached a high of 107 degrees, Redding had topped 109, and Red Bluff had reached 109 degrees.

Forecasters predict a high of 104 todayin Sacramento, then a drop to the high 90s for Thursday through Saturday. The normal high for this time of year is 94 degrees.

The mercury's dip later this week will probably spoil the capital's chance of exceeding its nine-day record for a string of 100-degree days. The last time that happened was 1996.

Lows through the weekend are expected to range from the mid-60s to around 70.

The meteorological culprit is an area of high pressure, centered over Nevada and rotating clockwise as it drifts earthward. Imagine a huge, fluffy comforter spiraling down on Northern California, trapping hot, stagnant air. Onshore winds -- those blessed Delta breezes -- are stymied by this blanket of high pressure.

"The marine air battles to come in every day, but it makes it to the coastal mountains, and there it sits," said John Juskie of the National Weather Service.

Increased smog levels are another result of hot temperatures and dead air.

Air-quality officials predict that today, like Tuesday, will be unhealthy for sensitive people: children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems.

The emergency room at Sutter Roseville Medical Center was full of the hot and wheezing, Dr. Jon Johnstone said. "You rehydrate them, tell them to stay in a cool place, drink more fluids and decrease physical activity," Johnstone said. "Basically, all the stuff your mother taught you."

Sizzling temperatures stress the regional electric grid. There were some power losses Tuesday to homes and business that agreed in advance to cutbacks during periods of high demand in exchange for lower rates.

For the second time this year, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District temporarily turned off air conditioners of its "Peak Corps" volunteers to take some strain off the system statewide.

The 105,000 residential Peak Corps members, who get an annual $10 cut in their electric bills for participating, had their air conditioners turned off for 15 minutes of every hour between 2 and 4:40 p.m. The 4,500 commercial participants lost air conditioning for 20 minutes between 4:30 and 5:40 p.m.

SMUD directors have promised that the Peak Corps program won't be used as intensively as it was earlier this summer, when air conditioners were turned off for 50 minutes out of every hour, prompting a wave of program dropouts.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co., as it has done in the last two major heat waves, asked some of its larger customers to voluntarily reduce power usage Tuesday afternoon.

As the temperature soared, there were a million stories in the baked city.

Douglas Washington, 33, was trying to keep cool, but it wasn't easy in a metal trailer on a blacktop parking lot. Washington, an attendant at a Goodwill Industries trailer in Elk Grove, did his best by sipping ice water.

Still, at 2 p m. the temperature was 98 degrees inside the trailer, according to an unofficial reading on a Bee thermometer. Washington, dressed in tank top and shorts, sat on a chair, sweated and waited for the donations.

Although Washington was surprisingly busy, business was slow at Maui Tan. The salon had no customers at 2:15 p.m. because "people are tanning in the real sun," employee Kelly Chavez said.

Luis Mendosa, 27, was knocking off work at 2:30 p.m. after a full day of nailing and sawing floors at a subdivision being built at East Park Drive and Kirkleigh Way. "It's hot. I'm leaving," he said.

In Roseville, crowds flocked to Golfland/Sunsplash, the water park on Taylor Road near Interstate 80 that offers a wave pool and a seven-slide tower. "We've been pushing about 2,000 to 2,500 people per day over the past two days," general manager Robert Welton said. "That's right at our capacity. A normal weekday draws from 1,500 to 2,000."

Nearly 200 of Tuesday's visitors were from Capital Christian Center's summer enrichment program. "The water is nice and cold," Caity Silva, 10, said.

In Citrus Heights, about 100 children found another way to beat the noon heat. They played in the Sunrise Mall's new indoor playground.

"We conserve energy at home by turning off the air conditioner and coming here to enjoy the free air," said Steven Klironomosof Folsom, as he watched his children, Alex, 3, and Giorgio, 4, romping in the spacious, air-conditioned play area.

The playground's centerpiece is a 10-foot tall plastic tree with a tunnel running through it, three feet off the ground. The $75,000 playground is surrounded by sofas for parents.

Joshua Bradley, Sacramento-area director for Skyhawks sports programs for kids, said that all weekly camps were moving full-speed ahead despite the heat.

"Our directors are trained in CPR and first aid to keep the kids safe," Bradley said. "And we sent letters to parents asking them to make sure kids have water and sun block."

At Foothill Community Park in Foothill Farms, all 23 children enrolled in the Skyhawks soccer camp Tuesday raced around the field in a game of capture-the-flag.

Yes, they looked messy and red-faced. But they also looked as though the heat wasn't stopping them from having fun.

Many had special strategies for staying in the game.

"I can run in any weather," said Britni Nickell, 8, of Orangevale. "But I have this trick of putting water in my hat so it will keep my head cool."

This tactic drew several converts over the course of the afternoon. Toward the end of the day, the sides of the field were littered with coolers, water jugs, squirt guns and other telltale signs of rising mercury.

Bee staff writers Bill Lindelof, Art Campos, Edgar Sanchez and Lisa Rapaport contributed to this report.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 02, 2000

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