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Power grid loss and rolling blackouts could lead to 12,000+ deaths in Phoenix, study says

An Environmental Science & Technology article said larger power outages have increased by 150%.

PHOENIX — How would the City of Phoenix fare during a widespread blackout?

A new report from the publication Environmental Science and Technology provides details on what impacts the city could face if the city lost power for days due to an electrical grid failure during a heat wave.

Scientists from Arizona State University, the University of Michigan, and the Georgia Institute of Technology worked together on the study.

The report found there would be at least 12,000 deaths. Nearly 800,000 people would need to be treated for heat-related illnesses, which would cause a massive strain on hospitals. 

“It’s highly unlikely. But it is possible we have small power outages that could last several hours throughout the Valley,” said Ron Coleman with the Maricopa County Office of Emergency Management.

The study said power outages lasting more than an hour, impacting more than 50,000 people, have increased by more than 150% from 2015-2016 and 2020-2021.  

Many blackouts and widespread power outages happen during the summer when the energy demand is at its greatest.

“We have multiple generation facilities. It’s not just one power plant that provides power to the Valley. It’s a variety of places,” said Coleman.”

As monsoon season quickly approaches for the Valley, Coleman said city and county leaders will work closely with utility companies to prepare and practice for scenarios.

He said there are plans to help the most vulnerable deal with the heat during outages.

"That's one of the things I'm confident and happy about is our ability to coordinate with our non-profit partners and other government agencies to continue to provide services for folks,” said Coleman.

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