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Energy emergency declared as Texas heat wave continues

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The operator of the electric grid that serves most of Texas has declared an energy conservation emergency as temperatures across much of the state approached or exceeded 100 degrees (38 Celsius).

The Energy Reliability Council of Texas appealed to all of the state's consumers of electric power to limit and reduce their usage during the peak demand hours of 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday after reserve capacity fell below 2,300 megawatts.

No rotating power outages were immediately reported.

ERCOT suggests setting thermostats 2 to 3 degrees higher, set pool pumps to shut off from 4 to 6 p.m., turn off and unplug nonessential lights and appliances, and avoid using large appliances such as ovens and washing machines during peak hours.

A megawatt is about enough electricity to power roughly 200 homes running air conditioners during hot weather.

States from Texas to South Carolina remained under heat advisories and warnings Tuesday, when it felt like 119 degrees (48 Celsius) in West Memphis, Arkansas — and forecasters said even more scorching conditions were possible by day's end.

The most intense heat Tuesday was expected in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alabama; and in areas near Memphis, Tennessee.

The warnings come one day after the temperature and humidity combined for a Monday heat index of 121 degrees (49.4 Celsius) in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

By noon Tuesday, the heat index was already 117 degrees (47 Celsius) in Clarksdale; and 114 (46 Celsius) in the west Tennessee city of Dyersburg, the weather service reported.

It's just as sizzling along the Gulf Coast in south Alabama and along the Florida panhandle. The heat index hit 117 (47 Celsius) before noon Tuesday in the Mobile, Alabama area. Pensacola saw a heat index of 115 (46 Celsius), also before noon.

Forecasters say the heat index is what the temperature actually feels like.

In downtown Birmingham, Alabama, a piano-playing sidewalk evangelist sought refuge from the sun with two umbrellas — one over his head and the other on his sunny side.

Around the corner, artist Henry L. McShan sold his watercolor landscapes in a shady spot beside a park. Temperatures in Birmingham were already in the 90s Tuesday morning.

"I'm going to be here all day. I've got several bottles of water. I'm ready for it," said McShan, his face glistening with sweat.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are prime threats during heat waves, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Kansas, a 2-year-old boy died after he was found alone in a parked car in the afternoon heat Sunday. It appears heat played a role in the child's death, Lawrence Police Chief Gregory Burns Jr. said in a statement Monday. It was about 88 degrees (31 Celsius) with a heat index of 96 (36 Celsius) in Lawrence at the time, the weather service said. The police investigation is continuing.

In Texas, TXU Energy asked its customers to dial back their thermostats between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday due to the extreme heat. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees parts of the state's power grid, said it set an all-time peak demand record Monday afternoon.

The Dallas Zoo prepared for large crowds Tuesday during $1 admission day even as forecasters predicted triple-digit temperatures. A Dallas Zoo dollar admission day in July drew more than 30,000 visitors, with temperatures in the 90s, zoo spokeswoman Chelsey Norris said.

Misting tents were set up throughout the zoo for visitors to cool down. Elephants will be soaked with water cannons and offered frozen treats, she said.

The heat alerts in place Tuesday stretched as far east as the Upstate area of South Carolina.

In Spartanburg, South Carolina, the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills are practicing together Tuesday and Wednesday before a preseason NFL game in Charlotte, North Carolina. Over the weekend, Panthers coach Ron Rivera had some fun with Bills coach Sean McDermott, sending a screenshot of the heat index in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It showed 110 degrees (43.3 Celsius) along with an orange emoji face dripping with sweat.

"A psychological game," Rivera joked of the scorching heat that awaits McDermott and the Bills this week.

San Marcos Record

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