Power Outages Attributed to Heat

July 8, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
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High temperatures in much of the country this week are causing blackouts and brownouts for some cities and neighborhoods.

As many as 8,000 people were reportedly without power in Pennsylvania on Monday. Scattered areas of Philadelphia remained without power as of 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Outages have occurred elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic this week.

Blackouts are the result of the unexpected loss of the power supply.

Brownouts refer to a temporary reduction in power, which could cause lights to dim.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, "enough electricity must always be produced to meet demand at every moment." When power grids are unable to produce enough power (because of overwhelming demand), blackouts can happen.

During the summer, there is often a higher risk for power outages because people run air conditioners and the extended use of these appliances and others can lead to unexpected demand for electricity.

When a power plant quits producing power, other plants in the area work to pick up the slack. However, plants will shut down rather than work beyond their maximum output, which also leads to blackouts.

Ready.gov said a rolling blackout can occur "when a power company turns off electricity to selected areas to save power. The blackouts are typically for one hour, then the power is restored and another area is turned off."

Con Edison spokesman Bob McGee said that in light of the high temperatures, the New York utility company has extra crews working.

"We're ready for any contingency," McGee said.

Temperatures will continue to climb on the East Coast this week. McGee said, "We do anticipate setting an all-time record for peak usage this week."

McGee said this would break a previous peak record established in 2006.

He also said the company was ready to address any power issues at a moment's notice.

"Our goal is to keep any outages limited in scope and short in duration," McGee said.

McGee said people can help reduce the chances for blackouts by using power wisely.

To help reduce the possibility for blackouts or brownouts in your area, consider these energy-saving options:

* Use a microwave instead of the stove (microwaves use almost 60 percent less energy).

* Set the thermostat a few degrees higher when you are away.

* Avoid using appliances during peak hours (4 p.m. to 6 p.m.).

If the power does go out in your area:

* Start by determining if your building is the only one without power.

* If the power outage is larger than your immediate home, call your utility company.

* Do not call 911 unless there is an emergency.

* Drive carefully, especially if traffic signals are not working - treat all intersections as four-way stops.

* Consider using a cell phone to check on elderly family and friends who may rely on electricity to power medical devices or to keep medications cool or visit them if safe to do so.

Related to the story:

Oppressive and Dangerous Heat Wave in the East

Stay Healthy as Temperatures Climb

Northeast Radar

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