Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is urging customers to conserve energy over Labor Day weekend due to a heat wave that could put a strain on California’s power grid.

The investor-owned utility wants customers to reduce their energy use from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday through Monday, in response to a flex alert issued by the state’s Independent System Operator, or Cal ISO.

“PG&E meteorologists are forecasting a strong high-pressure system over the western United States resulting in hot and dry conditions away from the coast,” the utility said in a news release on Thursday.

Daytime highs could top out at 15 to 20 degrees above normal, according to PG&E meteorologists.

The utility said the Cal ISO has not indicated a need for the rolling blackouts like those that were experienced last month for the first time since the state’s electricity crisis from 2000 to 2001.

An excessive heat warning was issued by the National Weather Service on Thursday that covers both Tuolumne and Calaveras counties from Saturday morning through Tuesday night. 

Sonora is forecast by the National Weather Service to have daytime highs in the triple digits from Saturday through Monday peaking at 105 on Sunday, while the daytime highs in San Andreas are forecast to be about the same and peak at 106 on Sunday.

Calaveras County has announced it will open a cooling center in San Andreas from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday through Tuesday, though Tuolumne County is not because the temperatures are not high or sustained enough to trigger opening one under the criteria of its extreme weather contingency plan. (See Friday’s Union Democrat for more information on that.)

Here are the tips that PG&E provided to help get through the weekend:

Conserving power:

  *   Avoid using electrical appliances and devices from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. Put off tasks such as vacuuming, laundry, dish washing and computer time until after 9 p.m.

  *   Adjust your thermostat to 78 degrees or higher or turn it off if you will be away from home. Use a fan instead of air conditioning when possible.

  *   Draw drapes and turn off unnecessary lighting.

  *   Limit the opening of refrigerators, which is a major user of electricity in most homes. The average refrigerator is opened 33 times a day.

  *   Keep refrigerator full (with bottles of water if nothing else) and unplug your second refrigerator, if you have one.

  *   Avoid using the oven. Instead, cook on the stove, use a microwave or grill outside.

  *   Set your pool pump to run overnight instead of during the day.

Staying safe and cool:

  *  Plan ahead: Check the weather forecast to prepare for hot days.

  *   Keep an emergency contact list: Keep a list of emergency phone numbers.

  *   Have a buddy system: Check in on elderly or frail people.

  *   Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water, even when you are not thirsty.

  *   Stay cool: Take a cool shower or bath and wear lightweight, loose, light-colored clothing.

  *   Stay safe: Stay out of direct sunlight and avoid alcoholic or caffeinated beverages.

Preparing for a power outage:

  *   Keep important numbers (e.g., hospital, fire department, police, friends, relatives) near the phone.

  *   Keep battery-operated flashlights and radios and extra batteries on hand.

  *   Gather non-perishable food that doesn't require cooking, as well as a manual can opener.

  *   Freeze water-filled plastic jugs to make blocks of ice. Place them in the fridge and freezer to help prevent food from spoiling.

  *   If you have a generator, make sure a licensed electrician properly installs it. Improperly installed generators pose a significant danger to our crews.

Contact Alex MacLean at or (209) 768-5175.

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