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LA's Heat Wave Left More Than 75,000 Without Power -- And Broke An Electricity Use Record

Line crews with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, seen here atop a pole replacing a transformer on Sunday, July 8, 2018, work to restore power to thousands during the weekend's heat wave in the region. (Photo courtesy LADWP via Twitter)
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With contributions by Emily Guerin and Susanne Whatley

The only thing worse than a heat wave? Your power going out during a heat wave. That's what happened to tens of thousands of Angelenos this weekend as the city sizzled.

On Friday, electricity use peaked at 6,256 megawatts in L.A., "setting a new record for a July day," according to an LADWP press release.

Saturday's peak electricity use exceeded 5,700 megawatts, making it the second highest weekend day in city history.

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The outages were especially bad in the Koreatown and Mid-City areas, according to Marty Adams, chief operating officer for LADWP.

"We were experiencing some larger problems and having to re-route some circuits and do some major reconstruction of the system," Adams told KPCC 's Morning Edition.

He said the utility hoped to have that work done and the majority of power restored by Monday afternoon. As of 9 a.m. Monday, LADWP said it had restored power to more than 76,000 customers and about 7,800 residences remained without power. It could still take 24 to 48 hours -- maybe more in some places -- to completely restore power.

"If we can't handle 110 degree temperatures for a day, what happens when L.A. is hit with a real emergency?"

At least 2,800 Southern California Edison customers also lost power over the weekend, the utility said in a statement.

We talked to some hot people Monday morning, who told us what it's been like to live without air conditioning (or even electric fans) this weekend. (Responses have been edited for clarity)

Brian Fritch, an LAUSD teacher from El Sereno, and his family were without power for more than 60 hours. Their electricity came back on at 11:45 a.m. Monday.

"We spent the night at my mother in law's house in east L.A. She has a window air conditioner. (We're sleeping) on an air mattress, so still kind of brutal. We didn't want to stay there again so we spent Saturday night in a hotel and came back here Sunday. Still nothing from DWP.

"I went to Home Depot and I bought a generator. My wife and my two kids, we just all slept in the same bed together with a fan on and just sweated the night out. I didn't get the best sleep, especially with a 2-year-old and a 6-year-old in the bed."

Fritch said his home's thermostat, which is running on batteries, was showing 91 degrees.

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Jon Orbita, a social worker from Silver Lake, lost power Saturday night.

"Our house in general is kind of like a sauna," he said. "When our house is hotter than the outside, that's an issue. For me, I'm fine with the heat. I grew up on the heat. But my wife was more concerned about our dogs. They were panting throughout the entire day.

"I opened up all the windows, we busted out all the candles (and) flashlights. The biggest thing for us is our food. It's not even cool in our refrigerator. I'm sure all of our frozen foods are spoiled. We're getting leaks now because of the frozen food. It's all pretty much defrosted. It's pretty warm and smelly in the fridge. I'll have to throw all that food away."

Some residents were simmering more than others, like Paul Singh, who lives in L.A.'s Thai Town neighborhood and went more than 65 hours without power.

"We have tried to be understanding of the issues as these things happen. But it's getting to be a bit absurd at this point," he said in an email Monday. "They should be much better prepared for this. If we can't handle 110 degree temperatures for a day, what happens when L.A. is hit with a real emergency?

"And LADWP has taken to this bizarre PR move of calling this a 'heat storm.' Eh, no. That's not a thing. It's been really hot for two days. That's it. No storm, and nothing that wasn't predicted and nothing that won't happen again. They need to get it together."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of LADWP COO Marty Adams' name.

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