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Health, Energy Officials Urge Caution As San Diego Bakes In The Heat

August 8, 2012 12:31 p.m.


Miguel Miller, National Weather Service

Steven Greenlee, spokesman, California Independent System Operator

Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H County of San Diego Public Health Officer

Wendelien Anderson Red Cross Instructor

Related Story: Health, Energy Officials Urge Caution As San Diego Bakes In The Heat


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition is the heat. San Diego has watched in relative comfort this summer as much of the nation suffered through one heat wave after another. Now it's our turn! The heat is on, and it's the first real test of our ability to survive high demand on the power grid with San Onofre offline. We have a number of guests to talk about different aspects of the heat wave. First I'd like to welcome Miguel Miller with the national weather service. Welcome to the program.
MILLER: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: What kind of temperatures are we talking about today?
MILLER: Well, today in some of the inland areas of San Diego County, they're going to exceed 100†degrees, and in the desert, probably going to exceed 115†degrees. So we're concerned about all that heat.
CAVANAUGH: Right. Now if you're closer to the coast, will you feel much of this heat wave?
MILLER: If you're right along the immediate coast, you're probably not going to keel it so much. Temperatures there are still in the 70s and lower 80s. That's doable. But you don't have to go very far inland to suffer from the heat.
CAVANAUGH: How hot will it get in the next few days.
MILLER: About as hot as today. So we're expecting about mid-90s, touching 100, or over that in San Diego County. Exceeding 115 in parts of the desert and in the Imperial Valley. But near the coast probably under 85
CAVANAUGH: Oh, that's hot enough! What about the humidity?
MILLER: The humidity will be fairly normal for this time of year. We have a little bit of monsoon moisture which makes it feel a lot more humid and uncomfortable. But it's not at really high levels.
CAVANAUGH: I heard in the inland areas there's a chance of thunderstorms; is that right?
MILLER: That's right. In the mountains, we do have a small chance of thunderstorms, you could just look to the east and see some of the clouds building up. And we do expect a small chance of those thunderstorms in the mountains of San Diego County for the next several days, probably through the weekend, even.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Here I think is the question everybody wants to know. When will it start to cool off?
MILLER: Well, that high pressure that you mentioned, it's going to begin to weaken and begin to migrate back east. Probably starting Friday, Saturday, Sunday, some areas near the coast will see relief from the heat over the weekend. But the desert will have to wait probably till Monday.
CAVANAUGH: Up until now, it's within a pretty blessed summer in San Diego. I'm wondering at the national weather service, I know you try to look as far into the future as you can. Do your models say that will continue? Or does the long-range forecast predict more heat waves?
MILLER: Well, this time of year is when we get our best heat waves, August even into September. So we are looking at the possibility of having something like this come back any time through September, really.
CAVANAUGH: One of the things I think that concerns San Diegans a great deal is a heat wave like this combined with the Santa Ana conditions. We're not having that now. Do you see anything like that developing?
MILLER: No. The Santa an conditions are strictly a fall or winter time phenomenon. This time of year, it's very, very difficult to get the kind of Santa Ana conditions.
CAVANAUGH: Okay. I have been speaking with Miguel Miller of the national weather service. Thank you very much.
>> You're welcome.
CAVANAUGH: Joining us now is doctor Wilma Wooten, possible health officer for the county of San Diego. Welcome to the show.
WOOTEN: Thank you for having me.
CAVANAUGH: Now, as I understand it, you just attended a meeting about the potential health hazards of the heat. Is the county issuing a heat warning?
WOOTEN: Yes, we actually have just issued a press release alerting the community of the extreme heat conditions and measures that they can take to prevent heat related illnesses, such as heat stroke, heat XAULGZ, and other illnesses.
CAVANAUGH: A heat warning, what exactly does that mean? What should people be concerned about? Obviously the heat, but I mean, why would the county go to that -- take that step?
WOOTEN: Because the intense or extreme temperatures can be associated with death heat-related illnesses, and these individuals often end up in the emergency department, and as I stated may even have more severe complications leading to death. So it's very important that we get the word out there so that those individuals that are at risk, which includes adults, particularly those over 65, children under four years of age, and people with multiple medical problems, particularly heart disease, and those people that don't have air conditioners, letting them know what they can do to prevent the heat-related illnesses. And to let them know that there are cool zones if they don't have air conditioners.
CAVANAUGH: What steps is the county taking to alert residents that there is this heat warning in effect?
WOOTEN: We have an excessive heat response plan. And when there is a perdition from the national weather services that the temperatures are going to be extreme, this plan is activated and we bring in all of the various stakeholders within our agency that have -- and play a role in protecting the health of the public from these heat -- excessive heat situations. So the first step is that we issue the press release to increase public awareness. And we give the public some actionability strategies and tips how to prevent heat-related illnesses, and also let them know if they don't have air conditioning, where they can go for cool zones.
CAVANAUGH: What are those strategies that you are offering people to stay as cool as possible?
WOOTEN: Well, the ways that people can stay cool as possible is No.†1 not to go out at the hottest part of the day when the sun is really out. We recommend that people do things before 10:00†AM and after 6:00†PM. If you're out, don't wear heavy clothing. To keep hydrated, make sure you're drinking plenty of fluids, and try to stay cool. And also letting people know that there are other risk factors. Some medications can cause people to become dehydrated. And if they're out in the sun, then they are at an increased risk for developing heat-related illnesses.
CAVANAUGH: Any popular medications? Like a blood pressure medicine?
WOOTEN: Antihistamines, drugs for allergies, diuretics taken for high blood pressure or leg swelling, medications for Parkinson's disease, some diarrhea medications, and some depression medications, laxatives as well. So there are numerous medications that can dehydrate one's body, and make them at increasedific are.
CAVANAUGH: Tell us about the county's cool zones.
WOOTEN: The cool zones are located at county facilities throughout the county. Libraries are a popular location. And individuals in the public can go to our county website to find out why these locations are, and to determine if there is a cool zone near them.
CAVANAUGH: And these are air conditioned facilities.
WOOTEN: Oh, yes, air conditioned facilities. People that don't have an air conditioner or their air conditioner may have broken, they can go to these facilities and spend time there, and stay cool, and not be exposed to the elements. And to the excessive heat.
CAVANAUGH: Is there any option that the county can provide or suggest to people to actually get to a cool zone if it's, you know, several blocks away or something like that? Anything provided by the county in terms of transport?
WOOTEN: Not transport at this time that is being provided. But we are trying to make the locations known so that people know the days and the hours of the cool zones. And we're trying to recommend other locations that may not be necessarily county facilities like the malls. Those areas are places where people can go. The bottom line is any air conditioned place that -- where people can go that's located nearby. But we do have the locations on our county website.
CAVANAUGH: Or I would imagine they can call 211?
WOOTEN: Absolutely.
CAVANAUGH: And we do have a list of the cool zone locations on our website at This is the first real heat wave since the shutdown of San Onofre this year. We usually depend on power from the nuclear plant especially during times of high demand. Joining me now is Steven Greenlee, spokesman for the independent system operator, otherwise known as the power grid. Welcome to the show.
GREENLEE: Thank you very much. It's a good day to be talking about power.
CAVANAUGH: It certainly is. How much power do we hear in Southern California, especially San Diego, usually get from San Onofre?
GREENLEE: Well, San Onofre contributes about 2,250 megawatts, so as we all know, that has gone away. But whenever we first learn that the plant was going to be offline and not available to us this summer, back in the spring, we developed a plan to go ahead and manage the grid. And we have done that, and the plan is working. We are concerned about the heat wave that we're in at the moment, but we have generation and transmission that's expected to be adequate.
CAVANAUGH: Under what conditions would you declare a flex alert?
GREENLEE: Well, we do that subjectively. But basically, it is whenever we see where demand is beginning to outpace supply. And there's not a set point in there that will -- that we actually look to in order to pull the trigger. We use our best judgments. And that is what we are constantly reevaluating. We have not at the moment issued a flex alert for today or for tomorrow. But we are looking at that as each hour goes by, and if conditions are warranted, we will issue a flex alert.
CAVANAUGH: I know you can tell people what to do to conserve energy, especially when they get home tonight and start to turn on all the electrical influences.
GREENLEE: That's right, and especially during the 4:00†PM to 6:00†PM period. Many people come home, and they have been out in the weather, and they want to cool down fairly quickly. Well, at least during our hot times, we're asking people to actually increase the temperature of the home, say maybe to 78†degrees or even 80†degrees if that's possible. Because once all of these air conditioners start trying to cool a lot of homes down, that's a lot of juice that's flowing. Some of the other things we can do, for instance, you do turn up the air conditioner to a bit warmer. Use house fans. That will help circulate the air in there and make you more comfortable. Also pulling the drapes for your homes, it's awfully nice to be able to look out your front window on a nice bright sunny day, but all of the sunshine comes in and warms up the house. Just pulling your drapes will actually cut a degree or two off of the temperature. Putting off all of the rest of your use of appliances, you know, [the|ed] dish washer, the washing machine, till later on in the evening, maybe well into the evening, as well as things such as pool pumps. Set those to run overnight as well. And one last quick thing, people don't normally realize this, but a refrigerator of course is a big draw of power in a home. And an empty or near empty refrigerator pulls more power. So we just recommend that if you have a lot of space in your fridge, take water jug, fill them up, put them in the fridge, and that will help maintain internal coldness and the fridge won't have to run as much.
CAVANAUGH: Interesting tip, and a lot of good information. Thank you very much.
GREENLEE: You're very welcome.
CAVANAUGH: We asked SDG&E to talk to San Diegans listening to us today about the important issue of this heat wave, but they were unable to provide a representative. With me now is Wendelien Anderson of the red cross of San Diego.
ANDERSON: Thanks for having us.
CAVANAUGH: I know you put out a whole list of guidelines. What should you do if indeed we wind up without enough power to support us in high demand times?
ANDERSON: One thing the red cross stands for is being prepared. And power outages, whether it's because of a heat wave or another disaster. You can prepare in the same sort of way. Getting together a kit for your family, and information on the contents of the kit. You can find that at Flashlights with batteries, candles only add to the heat and the hazard of the situation. We recommend 1†gallon of water per person per day, and that's not even thinking about pets. Gather a kit with emergency supplies for everyone, including personal medications or things that someone might need.
CAVANAUGH: And I know that you also recommend people check on their neighbors.
ANDERSON: Definitely. Once you've gotten yourself prepared, you have everything you need, your household is set, your pets are set, look out to your neighbors and see are there without people air conditioning that need transport or come to your house for a cool zone. Are there neighbors that are older or very young or ill that are susceptible to this high heat that you can help?
CAVANAUGH: One thing I saw on your website. No alcohol. That's terrible!

ANDERSON: I know, alcohol, and caffeine, we love going out to the bars in San Diego or the coffee shops, but this can serve to dehydrate us even more. So try to drink more water, have it at hand. Even if you don't think you're thirsty, Maureen and I both have water on hand here. And you just want to be continually drinking that so that you remain hydrated. Often when you get thirsty, it's too late.
CAVANAUGH: Well, I want thank you very much for those tips.