Bay Area heat wave preparations: Conserving energy, cooling centers, and resources for homeless

ByZach Fuentes and Ryan Curry, Anser Hassan KGO logo
Saturday, September 3, 2022
Debate over sweep of San Jose homeless encampment with heat wave
Before the heat wave was forecasted, the city planned for the camp to be cleared in sections between September 1 to September 30.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Preparations are underway as a dangerous heat wave barrels down on the Bay Area which will batter the region with triple-digit temperatures for several days.

How to save energy amid Flex Alert

A Flex Alert has been issued to get Californians to conserve energy and prevent possible blackouts across the state. This is just the first of what's bound to be several Flex Alerts in California for the rest of the week

"Just to be prepared for this extensive heat, PG&E meteorologists are forecasting this to be the hottest weekend, the hottest next several days of the year," Deanna Contreras of PG&E said.

Temperatures in Northern California are expected to be 10-20 degrees warmer than normal through the Labor Day weekend.

A Flex Alert is a call to customers to voluntarily cut back on electricity - especially during peak hours.

The state called for a Flex Alert for a reason," Contreras said. "That means that peak demand, between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. is getting dangerously close to what we have in supply; balancing out supply and demand. So, every little bit helps."

FLEX ALERT: California grid operator calls for voluntary conservation ahead of heat wave

PG&E recommends:

  • Save the dishes and laundry until after 9 p.m.
  • Set thermostats to 78 - if health permits
  • Wait until after 9 p.m. to charge electric cars, which could save users money

"There is a residential program where if you do reduce your energy use compared to previous years, you do get a saving on your bill," Contreras said.

Steve Hill with the Contra Costa County Fire Prevention District warns residents to limit outdoor activity from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. because of the threat of heat-related illness.

"One thing we can tell you for certain is that this is probably not the weekend to go on extended hikes on our many hiking trails in Contra Costa County, and of course the rest of the region," he said.

With hot temperatures and extremely dry conditions, the threat of fires is another big concern. Much is caused by human activity.

"Malfunctioning vehicles, vehicles dragging chains or trailers, or people in those vehicles carelessly discarding smoking materials," Hill said. "Those are all things that are preventable. Especially that last one."

RELATED: Fire erupts in Southern California amid brutal heat wave

Dorms with no AC?

Certain dorms at CAL State East Bay don't have air conditioning and university officials are telling students to use campus buildings to stay cool if they need it.

CAL State East Bay students are gearing up for a weekend of hot weather on campus. Certain dorms at the university don't have air conditioning. University officials are telling students to use campus buildings to stay cool if they need it.

"Many of these buildings are air conditioned so if students need a little reprieve many of these buildings will be open for students to cool off during the day," said Dr. Michael Schmeltz, Professor of Public Health.

The dorms that mostly house freshmen only have fans.

"I am not sure the mechanics of it, but yeah we don't have AC," said Ian Mead, a freshman student. "Our dorm is set up with mostly fans."

Normally it doesn't get this hot on the campus but the university says going forward they may need to include AC in every building.

"Air conditioning is one of the main things being taken into consideration given our changing climate and the number of heat waves we have been having over the years," Dr. Schmeltz said.

RELATED: This weekend may be hottest so far this year in Bay Area

Community encourages help of homeless neighbors

Before the heat wave was forecasted, the city planned for the camp to be cleared in sections between September 1 to September 30.

In the South Bay, the heat wave is coming just as a massive sweep of a San Jose homeless encampment is set to start Friday. It's been more than a year since the FAA ordered the City of San Jose to shut down the encampment near Mineta San Jose International Airport.

Before the heat wave was forecasted, the city planned for the camp to be cleared in sections between Sept. 1 to Sept. 30.

"That's a big concern," said Shaunn Cartwright, with the Unhoused Response Group. "Why we would sweep people and force them to become hypothermic and face death is just ridiculous to me."

Cartwright says she wants the city to delay the sweep for at least a week.

"If you postpone it, it actually would help people in the way of bringing having another week to bring in more resources," Cartwright said. "Bringing in electrolytes and water and ice, rather than forcing people to move and trying to keep them hydrated."

City officials and Cartwright acknowledge that city policy states that a sweep has to stop during inclement weather. In the case of heat, that's once the temperature actually reaches 88 degrees, not when it's expected to.

"When the heat wave does come, some work may happen in the morning to clear out debris and trash," said Ragan Henninger, Deputy Director of the city's housing department. "But when that temperature does reach 88, the work will stop."

Cartwright says she feels doing the sweep even up to a potential 87 degrees is still too much of an ask.

"You have people who are scrambling, they're packing, they're moving a lot of equipment, people, their houses, their tents, their tarps they're relocating, it's a lot of effort," she said.

For now, the County of Santa Clara, which has no involvement in the sweep, says they're working overtime to provide resources to the unhoused and other vulnerable populations as the heatwave sets in.

"We're still working on getting more cooling centers up and running," said Michelle Covert, the county's housing and homeless concerns coordinator. "We do know there's a couple of sites that have made themselves available both in Morgan Hill and in Sunnyvale, and all the county libraries so far, are going to be available on Saturday and Sunday. We're still working on additional resources for the actual holiday of Monday."

RELATED: List of Bay Area cooling centers opening up amid heat wave

While the dispute between homeless advocates and the City of San Jose continues, Cartwright urges community members to look out for unhoused neighbors.

"Take them some water, take them some cold drinks, all of that's appreciated," she said. "Help your neighbor stay alive."


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