Heat forces cancellations; regional electric grid operator calls for controlled outages

September 11, 2013
York Daily Record
Hannah Sawyer

York College shut down its air conditioning units Wednesday in the midst of 90-degree weather after a regional electricity grid operator expressed fears that high demand for power could lead to a brownout.

Mary Dolheimer, a spokeswoman for York College, said PJM issued a notice indicating the danger and asking the college to turn off lights, copiers, computers and air conditioning systems to conserve energy.

The request was a preventative move, according to a news release from PJM. Tuesday, the company, which manages the transmission of electricity over 13 states, was forced to initiate controlled outages in parts of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania after hot temperatures and equipment problems stressed the system.

"Many power plants and some transmission lines were off for seasonal maintenance," Terry Boston, CEO, said in the release. Boston said the company's only option to prevent an uncontrolled blackout over a large area was to direct some utilities, which manage local transmission lines, to immediately cut electricity to some customers.

Dolheimer said the college participates in a demand response program.

Members of demand response programs are asked to conserve energy during periods of high use and are billed on a monthly basis, according to PJM's website.

The college receives similar requests from PJM throughout the summer, but Dolheimer said it was the first time she had seen the company issue an alert about the possibility of a brownout.

Air conditioning systems in all buildings, including dormitories, were turned off, Dolheimer said, although she did not believe the shutdown caused any changes to class or activity schedules.

Haley Gordon and Maggie Motheryear, sophomore nursing students, were in a lab class when the units were turned off.

"It just got hot," Gordon said.

Motheryear said all the students were wearing lab coats at the time – making the situation even worse.

But Gordon said the heat is typical for the start of the school year.

Without air conditioning in her dorm room, she said she and her roommates have placed eight fans in the two-bedroom suite.

The hot weather caused Dallastown Area and South Western school districts to cancel some junior high games and practices.

Memorial Hospital treated one patient for a heat-related illness, said Jason McSherry, a spokesman for the company. York Hospital reported no cases of heat-related illnesses, spokesman Barry Sparks said.

Temperatures will remain high for the next few days. The lack of rain in many areas is exasperating conditions, Dave Dombek, Northeast weather expert for Accuweather.com, said in a news release.

Still, York County will be about 10 to 12 degrees below tomorrow's record high of 100, Accuweather.com meteorologist Mike Pigott said.

"Not to say it's not uncomfortable out there," he said.

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