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Citizens face hours-long blackout as major cities are scorched by record-breaking heat wave: 'This was something exceptional'

Power outages can be life-threatening events, particularly during extreme weather.

Power outages can be life-threatening events, particularly during extreme weather.

Photo Credit: iStock

After unusually hot weather led to rolling power outages in more than half of Mexico's states, the country's president spoke to the media to address the electricity emergency.  

What's happening?

Reuters reported that 20 of Mexico's 32 federal entities (the capital of Mexico City and 31 states) dealt with a loss of power amid an unseasonable heat wave. On May 8, the day after the rolling outages occurred, the national power demand reached roughly 44.9 gigawatts. 

"This was something exceptional that was not expected," President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told reporters. "But we're going to be very attentive to this special situation we're dealing with."

The Associated Press noted that the blackouts lasted roughly five hours, though the time likely varied for individual households, according to the National Center for Energy Control. On May 10, Reuters reported that 10 cities in Mexico had reached record-high temperatures. 

Why is this important?

Power outages can be life-threatening events, particularly during extreme weather

People who depend upon electric medical devices need power before the equipment is depleted. High temperatures can lead to heat-related illnesses, even contributing to severe health complications, including strokes and heart attacks.   

Mexico isn't the only country grappling with unusual temperatures. El Niño, which increases the likelihood of extreme weather, has been a factor to this point. For example, dry weather conditions in Indonesia led to a rice shortage.

However, human-caused warming — linked primarily to the burning of dirty fuels — is supercharging our weather, causing extreme events to become more powerful and frequent. That's true even when El Niño isn't active.The National Weather Service predicts this naturally occurring pattern will begin to fade in June. 

In Mexico, employers lobby COPARMEX is advocating for more private investments to enhance the country's clean-energy grid, as reported by Reuters. 

In the event of outages, solar panels can help keep the lights on, while battery storage can ensure there's another power source to go around even when renewable sources like the sun and wind aren't generating electricity. Crushed rocks and sand are among the storage solutions researchers have developed. 

"The participation of private investment would provide stability in the face of the various contingencies and challenges of the national electricity system," COPARMEX told the news outlet. "The generation of clean energy and the creation of storage infrastructure could avoid future electricity emergencies."

Another benefit to renewables is they don't generate asthma-linked pollution that is also driving our planet's temperatures higher.    

There are other ways to stay safe during extreme heat, too. Drinking water, wearing lightweight clothing, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine can help. 

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