Updated Sept. 6, 7:10 p.m.
As an extended heat wave hits California, Sacramento is expected to see consecutive days of 100-plus degree temperatures and little chance for overnight cooling, which could pose major health issues for many in the region.
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning from Sunday through Friday for much of Northern California. Temperatures are expected to break records across the state.
Forecast for the region
The Sacramento area has seen record-breaking temperatures since the heat wave descended upon the west coast last week.
On Tuesday, downtown Sacramento hit 116 degrees, the highest temperature ever recorded for the area. Previously, the highest-ever temperature recorded in downtown Sacramento was 114 degrees on July 17, 1925.
Katrina Hand, a meteorologist with the weather service in Sacramento, told CapRadio these temperatures are unusual for this time of year.
"The normals for the Sacramento area for this time of year are the low 90s,” Hand said. “So we're looking at 15 to 20 degrees above normal over that Saturday, Sunday, Monday time frame.”
The weather service says relief from heat will come over the weekend, when temperatures are expected to return to the low 90s and high 80s in valley areas.
Staying healthy during severe heat
Extreme heat can pose a number of health risks, especially for children, elderly people, outdoor workers and those living with chronic illnesses.
The best way to avoid heat-related illness includes wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, staying hydrated and limiting outdoor activities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Officials also recommend spending as much time in air-conditioned spaces as possible. If your home does not have air conditioning, seek refuge at a community center, library or local cooling center.
“Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat,” CDC officials said.
On a press call Wednesday, the weather service warned that overnight temperatures will also be high, which could pose more health problems than usual.
Temperatures are typically cooler at night, which gives the body relief from the heat felt during the day, according to the CDC. However, when overnight temperatures remain high, it may be too warm for the body to cool down.
“This places strain on your body, as your heart increases circulation to try to regulate your body temperature,” the CDC said.
Two common types of heat-related illness are heat stroke, which is when the body can no longer control its temperature, and heat exhaustion, the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt.
Symptoms of heat stroke include hot, dry skin or profuse sweating, confusion and slurred speech, and seizures, according to the department, while symptoms of heat exhaustion include headache, nausea and dizziness, according to the CDC.
If you notice yourself or someone else exhibiting these symptoms, CDC officials say to call 911.
Where you can cool down
Local officials across the Sacramento region have opened cooling centers, places where people without air conditioning can seek refuge from the heat.
Sacramento County and Sacramento Regional Transit have partnered to offer free rides to cooling centers within the county through Thursday.
Here’s a list of cooling centers in the Sacramento area opening this week.
Yolo County has also launched an interactive list of places to cool down. YoloBus is offering free rides on all fixed route services starting on Friday and running through Sunday.
The Auburn, Colfax and Foresthill libraries in Placer County will be open Saturday, Sunday and Monday until 7 p.m. to provide air conditioned spaces for community members to cope with the heat.
How officials are responding to help keep people safe
Sacramento County health officials announced Wednesday that they recommend postponing or canceling outdoor afternoon events between Saturday and Tuesday.
“Events such as youth sports, community gatherings, parades, marches or any events including sensitive groups such as children, the elderly or those with compromised immune systems that may be negatively impacted by the heat,” the county said in a release.
In response, Sacramento State canceled tailgating activities ahead of Saturday night’s football game — the first of the season.
“Assuming conditions are deemed safe by NCAA referees, kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m,” the university’s president Robert Nelsen said in a message to the campus on Thursday. “Water stations will be available inside and outside of Hornet Stadium, and a cooling room will be open in The WELL before and during the game.”
Heat stressing the state’s power grid
Governor Gavin Newsom called a statewide emergency last week in response to the heat’s expected demand on the state’s power grid. On Tuesday, the governor’s office announced that the statewide emergency had been extended through Friday in response to prolonged high temperatures.
The move will allow California ISO, the organization that manages the power grid, to temporarily increase energy production.
California ISO has also issued a series of Flex Alerts, which are voluntary calls for California residents to conserve power during peak-demand hours.
The first Flex Alert of the heat wave was issued Wednesday, and Flex Alerts have been called daily since then. California ISO announced just after 5 p.m. on Tuesday that it was only steps away from ordering rolling blackouts, as demand reached record-breaking levels.
“If necessary, the grid operator can now order rotating power outages to lower demand and stabilize the system,” Cal ISO officials said in a news release. “If outages are initiated, consumers can expect to receive notifications from power providers on areas affected and time duration.”
The agency serving a large portion of the Sacramento area, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), is not on the same grid as Cal ISO. SMUD gets its power from a number of sources, many of which it generates itself.
However, this year’s record-breaking heat wave is stressing both Cal ISO and SMUD’s energy grid.
“SMUD anticipates energy shortfalls in the late afternoon and evening hours and rotating outages are possible unless we all work together to reduce electric consumption,” agency officials said in a news release Tuesday.
SMUD is asking its customers to participate in the statewide Flex Alert on Tuesday in order to prevent blackouts in its service area.
Why is it so hot?
Sacramento has seen more than 30 days of temperatures exceeding 100 degrees this year. The current record is 41 days, which happened in 1988.
Noah Diffenbaugh,a climate scientist at Stanford, says that because of climate change we can expect more record-breaking summers to come.
“We have clear evidence that extremely hot events, including those that are unprecedented in our historical experience, are becoming more likely,” he said. “We're already in a climate in which those risks are elevated, and we can expect those events to intensify further as global warming continues in the future.”
Diffenbaugh also said that these challenges are not unique to California or even the United States. Temperatures soared to extreme levels in South Asia in March and April this year, much earlier than usual for the region.
“We're seeing all around the world that heat records are being broken, and we're seeing the impacts of those severe heat events, whether it's in agriculture, in our food system, water resources, electricity generation, ecosystems, both on land and in rivers and streams, as well as in the ocean from marine heatwaves,” he said.
Fire weather warnings
Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci said during a press call on Wednesday that the department has initiated its extreme temperature response plan. Emergency generators and firefighting resources have been prepositioned across 12 California counties as a result.
“The Cal OES Warning Center and State Operations Center will monitor conditions and be ready for further resource requests as necessary,” the department said in a release on Friday.
The weather service has issued Red Flag warnings for Del Norte, Lassen, Modoc, Siskiyou and Trinity counties, which indicate an increased risk of fire danger.
Burn bans are in effect for much of Northern California along with enhanced fire restrictions on a large portion of National Forest owned land.
Follow us for more stories like this
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.