A dangerous and sweltering heat wave will continue to consume much of the western United States, particularly California, Friday through Labor Day weekend, the National Weather Service said.
Intense heat is straining the power grid and heightening concerns about wildfires, which only grew on Friday as a fast-moving blaze forced at least 5,000 residents to evacuate northern California .
Temperatures in the mid to upper 90s to lower 100s will result in widespread daily records every day for much of the region, the weather service said.
The National Weather Service said the notorious Death Valley hotspot soared to 124 degrees on Friday, approaching the hottest September temperature on Earth of 126 degrees. The hellish place already holds the world’s hottest temperature record of 134 degrees, set in 1913.
On Friday, about 50 million people, mostly in the western United States, were subject to excessive heat warnings and watches as well as heat advisories. Almost all of California is under an excessive heat warning.
Other temperature records likely to be broken
Elsewhere, many monthly temperature records are likely to be broken in inland regions of California, according to UCLA climatologist Daniel Swain.
Death Valley has approached the highest September temperature ever recorded on Earth, reaching a sweltering 124 degrees on Friday. The record is 126 degrees.
Forecasters have warned that Death Valley’s famous Furnace Creek thermometer could produce even higher readings.
“It’s not the official thermometer – so it wouldn’t be used to set the records,” said Brian Planz, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Las Vegas.
“Little or no overnight heat relief will only increase heat stress and create a potentially hazardous situation for susceptible individuals,” the weather service warned.
HIGH HEAT:What is the hottest temperature ever recorded? Where on Earth was it?
“This heat can produce a very high risk of heat illness,” the Los Angeles Weather Service said.
The Capital Weather Gang said, “Nearly 38 million people, the vast majority of them in California and Arizona, are expected to experience century-high highs in the coming week.”
IS AUTUMN REALLY HERE? :Today is the first day of autumn, say meteorologists. But it won’t feel that way in the West.
AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter said: “The risks associated with this heatwave are of even greater concern than other heatwaves, as it will occur over Labor Day weekend, a holiday weekends where many people are spending more time outdoors and may be less aware of heat hazards.
“The heat wave will be notable for its persistence – day after day of extreme heat with temperatures, in some places like California’s capital of Sacramento, near or above 110 degrees for three or more consecutive days,” Porter said. .
“Extreme caution” is advised for people going outdoors, the Sacramento Weather Service said.
Forest fire, power problems
Wildfires and power outages were high on California officials’ list of concerns Friday.
In California, wildfires have gnawed through rural areas north of Los Angeles and east of San Diego, cutting through dry brush and prompting evacuations.
POWER PROBLEMS? :California hopes to avoid blackouts during heat wave by asking millions to use less electricity
In northwest Los Angeles County, the intense highway fire near Castaic raged through more than 8 square miles of hills containing scattered homes Wednesday night. Traffic was blocked on Interstate 5, a major north-south route through the fire zone. Containment was estimated at 37% Friday morning.
On Wednesday, seven firefighters battling the blaze in triple-digit temperatures were taken to hospitals with heat-related illnesses. All were released.
More than 1,500 people had to evacuate eastern San Diego County when the Border 32 Fire erupted on Wednesday, ultimately hospitalizing two and destroying 10 structures. On Friday, the fire remained at just under 7 square miles and containment had risen to 20%.
And in Northern California, a rapid fire forced at least 5,000 residents to evacuate and threatened hundreds of homes after the blaze spread to 500 acres in about an hour, the Siskiyou Sheriff’s Office said. in a press release.
State officials hope to stave off blackouts by asking residents to voluntarily use less power, even as the heat prompts Californians to turn up their air conditioners.
“One of the big unknowns about this (whether blackouts will occur) is that we also expect wildfires,” said Daniel Kammen, professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley. “And wildfires will force us to shut down some transmission lines, disabling them to prevent wildfires.
“So we could get into a situation where these brownouts, we call them, when they’re scheduled, we tell people ahead of time. But right now, none of them are scheduled,” he said. Kammen told USA TODAY.
CLIMATE CONNECTION:Extreme heat waves may be our new normal, thanks to climate change. Is the globe prepared?
Contributor: Celina Tebor, USA TODAY; The Associated Press