Summer heat waves could lead to major power outages in several major metropolitan areas, including New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Utility officials in the cities told USA Today they were preparing for the extreme heat and potential blackouts through this weekend.
These outages come on the heels of a July 13 blackout that left 73,000 people in Manhattan without power. Although caused by a system malfunction and not the heat, New Yorkers may feel a sense of déjà vu as officials say additional smaller-scale blackouts may occur as temperatures reach the triple digits in the city
While the heat may lead to blackouts, it isn’t the main problem. With increased temperatures, more people will turn to air conditioners, which are very power-demanding. It is this increase in demand for power that causes blackouts. In addition, according to USA Today, the Washington and New York areas are both served by underground systems. As the heat and humidity increase, the ground warms, and this adds to the demand for power.
The National Weather Service forecasts temperatures to reach 100 degrees in New York by Saturday and has issued an excessive heat watch for the Washington area for Friday, Saturday and Sunday for heat index values of 110 to 115 degrees, and an excessive heat watch for Chicago for Friday and Saturday.
#HEAT UPDATE: Today marks day 1 of 3 excessively hot and humid days for our region. Dangerous heat indices of 100-115 are expected. Stay hydrated and in shaded or air conditioned places, and check on your friends and neighbors. Heat safety tips: https://t.co/nm6p0Dmcbs. pic.twitter.com/Jb4u0DwSPs— NWS DC/Baltimore (@NWS_BaltWash) July 19, 2019
When there is no power, there is no way for people to cool down, which becomes a serious health risk. Last summer, a woman in Arizona died when her electric utility turned off her service, leaving her without air conditioning in 100-degree heat.
City governments, utilities and the National Weather Service have encouraged citizens to drink water, stay inside and avoid unnecessary work among other measures to stay safe, while New York City and D.C. officials will extend some public pool hours to help citizens deal with the heat.
Con Edison has employed an extra 4,000 electric operations personnel and support staff to respond to blackouts and has already restored power to more than 15,000 customers.
While power companies work to manage power—Con Edison has employed an extra 4,000 workers and has restored power to more than 15,000 customers already affected—there is also a call for people to decrease their demand for power, especially in the hottest times of the day.