Thursday, February 29

How a mobile alert saved US’ most populous city from power blackouts

A timely mobile alert may have prevented hundreds of thousands of Californians from being plunged into darkness in the middle of a heat wave Tuesday night.

Just before 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, California’s grid operator ordered its highest level of emergency, warning that blackouts were imminent. Then at 5:48 p.m., the state’s Office of Emergency Services sent out a text alert to people in targeted counties, asking them to conserve power if they could.

Within five minutes the grid emergency was all but over.

Power demand plunged by 1.2 gigawatts between 5:50 and 5:55 p.m., and would continue to drop in the hours after that, according to data from the California Independent System Operator. By 8 p.m., the grid operator canceled the highest level of emergency without calling for power cuts, which had been warned to more than 500,000 homes and businesses earlier in the day.

The governor’s office later credited the rapid response for averting any outages. Still, California faces more intense heat again on Wednesday.

“Thank you to everyone who saved power — coming together to keep the lights on for each other is the California way,” the governor’s office said in a tweet. “But, we aren’t out of the woods yet. We will see continued extreme temps this week and if we rallied today, we can do it again.”

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