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  Rolling Blackouts Threaten Calif.

By Don Thompson
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, Jan. 11, 2001; 12:24 p.m. EST

SACRAMENTO, Calif. –– California faced the threat of rolling blackouts Thursday as a storm hampered a key nuclear power plant in the already energy-strapped state.

The state's energy regulators declared a Stage Three power alert at midmorning as electricity reserves dropped below 1.5 percent, but stopped short of ordering scattered blackouts.

The California Independent System Operator, keeper of much of the state's power grid, asked Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to cut off power to customers who had volunteered to let their power be cut in exchange for lower rates, ISO spokesman Pat Dorinson said.

California's power production fell more than 15,000 megawatts as a storm carrying high winds and heavy rain battered California. One megawatt is enough to power 1,000 homes for an hour.

Power plants hit by the storm included the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo along the Pacific north of Los Angeles, which was hampered by high surf that blew sea kelp into the plant's intake valves.

Some of the plants were down for scheduled maintenance, Dorinson said. Another plant that produced 1,600 megawatts of power went offline suddenly Wednesday night, he said.

"We haven't taken off any customers yet, but that could change in the next half hour," he said. "It's going to get ugly today."

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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