Climate experts warn that communities across the US could see blackouts this summer due to extreme heat and ongoing drought.
The 2022 Summer Reliability Assessment released by NERC –– the nation's electrical infrastructure regulator –– found that extreme temperatures and a lasting drought in the US could cause the power grid to fail. The extreme temperatures, the agency said, will trigger a higher demand for electricity, while the drought will limit the availability of power to meet the demand.
Based on data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency, predominantly Black neighborhoods might be disproportionately impacted by extreme weather and could see more blackouts more often.
"The impacts of climate change that we are feeling today, from extreme heat to flooding to severe storms, are expected to get worse and people less able to prepare and cope are disproportionately exposed," EPA Director Michael Reagan said in a September 2021 report.
During the deadly historic freeze seen in Texas in February 2021, data showed that Black neighborhoods were hit with power outages first and for longer periods. In 2019, 50,000 people across some of NYC's most heat vulnerable neighborhoods saw their power cut during extreme temperatures.
This risk is due to gentrification, redlining, and other forms of environmental racism, research shows. Decades of housing policy left Black and low-income neighborhoods with fewer trees, leading to less shade and higher temperatures.
Safety Tips for Extreme Heat & Summer Power Outages
There are various things to keep in mind in order to stay safe during extreme temperatures and power outages. When it comes to the heat, experts caution people to:
- Stay out of the sun during extreme temperatures
- Stay hydrated, avoid sugary drinks including sodas and alcohol
- Check on neighbors, especially families with young children and the elderly
- Know the signs of heat stress, and when to seek medical attention
- Check your medications: they may make you more vulnerable to the heat
If the power goes out during extremely high temperatures, experts advise the following:
- Prepare an emergency kit. Items to include: flashlight and batteries, one gallon of water per person per day, non-perishable foods, extra clothing, activities for kids to pass the time, first aid kit.
- Keep the refrigerator closed as much as possible.
- If possible, before an outage, fill freezers will a few water jugs, once frozen they can help keep perishables cool if the outage lasts more than four hours
- Stay in the coolest area of your home. If possible, visit air-conditioned places and check if your city has cooling centers set up