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Nevada hit with rolling blackouts, declares red alert
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Soaring temperatures triggered rolling power blackouts Monday in southern Nevada.
The Las Vegas-based Nevada Power briefly declared a red alert as churning air conditioners outstripped the utility company's ability to provide electricity.
The company called a late afternoon news conference to provide details of the power emergency that lasted about two hours.
Scattered outages were reported around the Las Vegas area as power-thirsty customers tried to cope with triple-digit temperatures.
Temperatures scorched the southern Nevada desert for the second straight day Monday.
After reaching an official high of 112 degrees on Sunday, temperatures climbed in Las Vegas on Monday.
Unofficially, temperatures hit 120 on the Las Vegas Strip and 122 elsewhere.
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 02, 2001
Posted at 4:22 a.m. PDT Tuesday, July 3, 2001
Blackouts roll into Las Vegas BY JOHN WOOLFOLK, STEVE JOHNSON AND MIKE ZAPLER Mercury News In one of the clearest signs yet that the power crisis is not just California's problem, rolling blackouts swept through Las Vegas on Monday afternoon in the city famed for its dazzling casino lights, the first forced outages to hit Nevada.
Energy experts said the blackouts were the first in the West outside of California since the energy crisis began. Until now, said Frank Wolak, a Stanford University economist and power grid analyst, ``California has been rather unique in that regard.''
With a Western heat wave baking Las Vegas, Nevada Power Co. cut electricity beginning at 4:10 p.m. for 45 minutes to about 10,000 customers. Temperatures hit 114 degrees at the airport and were reported as high as 120 degrees on the Las Vegas strip, pushing power demand for air conditioning to record levels.
Ironically, California avoided rolling blackouts Monday despite triple-digit temperatures that pushed the state for the first time in more than a month into a Stage 2 emergency, the second-highest level of alert. Despite forecasts of continuing high temperatures this week, state power officials expect to squeak by without blackouts.
Nevada, which backed off its electricity deregulation plan in light of California's troubles, had expected tight supplies this summer and had called upon casinos and other big businesses to conserve.
But Monday's forced outages came as a shock to the desert gambling resort.
``This was a surprise,'' Nevada Power spokeswoman Susan Boswell said.
Along the strip, the outages passed largely unnoticed even with hundreds of thousands of gamblers and visitors pouring in for the Fourth of July holiday week. Casinos, shopping malls and other public gathering places are exempt from rolling blackouts in Nevada, Boswell said.
But the casinos did voluntarily cut back their power use, saving a total of 50 megawatts and sparing the rest of the city from more extensive blackouts.
The Aladdin and Bellagio casinos shut off their fountains. Caesars Palace and the Las Vegas Hilton cut back on air conditioning in ``non- essential areas'' such as ballrooms that were not being used. Others dimmed their marquees.
Because the outages hit during the day, the famous lights weren't an issue.
``The casinos did a great job curtailing, which really helped,'' Nevada Power spokesman Paul Heagen said.
Affected customers were mostly homes and businesses on the northwest end of town in the newer suburban Summerlin area, Boswell said. One resident of northwest Las Vegas, Louise Ruskamp, arrived home Monday afternoon to find her digital clocks and VCR flashing.
``I think a lot of people are going to be scared we're having the same problems as in California,'' Ruskamp said. ``If you look at the big elderly population we have in the city, we'd be having a lot of casualties. You can't survive in Las Vegas without air conditioning.''
Chuck Umnuss, an elderly resident of Summerlin who wasn't hit by the blackouts, was still confounded by the news.
``Not more than a month ago, everyone was saying there wouldn't be any problems, that it was a California problem, and here it happens. It's amazing,'' Umnuss said. ``The people I've talked to are nervous.''
The governor's office reported no health problems as a result of the brief blackouts. But the outages came with little warning. Nevada Power declared a ``yellow alert,'' similar to California's Stage 2, just minutes before calling a ``red alert,'' which signals rolling blackouts, Boswell said.
Power officials blamed shortages on the high temperatures as well as power plant breakdowns that limited both local supplies and imports.
``This was not a Nevada situation,'' Heagen said. ``The whole West and Southwest was in a heat wave. There just wasn't enough power to go around.''
The unexpected shutdown of two generators at a Mojave power plant that serves California left 1,500 megawatts unavailable Monday. California saw its imports drop as neighboring states held on to their power. Nevada lost a 350-megawatt generator.
A bit of luck prevented further outages. A power plant went on line Monday in Yuba City, and in Nevada, several long-term power contracts went into effect.
Nevada officials did not blame California's power troubles for Monday's outages but noted that the Golden State has stressed the entire Western grid.
``Was today's problem a result specifically from California? No,'' said Marybell Batjer, chief of staff to Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn. ``In the larger picture, California's energy situation has put the entire Western grid into a situation that's a daily concern for all of us.''
At least five temperature records were set Monday in Nevada, said Steve Anderson, a National Weather Service forecaster. Temperatures reached 106 in parts of Utah and 116 in Arizona.
Record highs in California included 106 in Livermore and 101 in Hollister. The previous records had been 104 in Livermore and 97 in Hollister, both set in 1960.
These kinds of hot temperatures ``usually occur more in August,'' Anderson said. . . . ``Temperatures will be about the same or actually even hotter throughout the week, across the same area.''
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), July 03, 2001.