A potentially historic heat wave intensifies along the U.S. West Coast

Published On: July 5, 2024

The National Weather Service warned that the high-pressure system causing the heat wave would continue to bring scorching temperatures, with the worst yet to come on Saturday.

The heat was already intense on Thursday, with temperatures reaching above or near 100 degrees in most areas of the Bay Area, and it was expected to get even hotter.

CNN: A ‘potentially historic’ heat wave intensifies along the West Coast, with no relief expected for days. An extremely dangerous, unusually long heat wave is intensifying and spreading up the West Coast – and there will be no relief for days.

California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Arizona are bracing for potential wildfires, opening cooling centers and warning residents to stay indoors and keep hydrated as the unrelenting heat wave delivers sweltering temperatures well into the 100s and 110s – with highs in the 120s possible in the Desert Southwest.

And it’s only getting hotter.

Death Valley, California, could top 125 degrees by Sunday or Monday, setting a new daily record for those dates. Las Vegas, Nevada, could also exceed its all-time high temperature of 117 degrees Sunday or Monday.

“Confidence is increasing that this potentially historic heatwave will last several days,” the National Weather Service in Portland warned, adding that the risk of heat-related illness will increase significantly.

Extreme heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, leaving hundreds of people dead each year, according to the National Weather Service.

Forecast for Saturday July 6, 2024 from the July 5, 2024 at 4 a.m. ET Update.

Saturday will likely be the hottest day in this prolonged heat wave. High temperatures in the 110s becoming common across California, outside coastal areas and higher elevations, the National Weather Service said.

“This level of heat throughout parts of the Mojave Desert and Sacramento/San Joaquin valleys of California could pose a risk to anyone if proper heat safety is not followed,” the weather service said.

Nationwide, nearly 140 million people remain under heat alerts – mostly in Western states, where the heat wave is expected to last through the middle of next week.

Parts of Oregon will experience triple digits Friday, and the heat could last up to five days with poor overnight relief, the National Weather Service in Portland said.

state of emergency was declared in Multnomah County, Oregon’s most populous county, for this weekend as temperatures were expected to climb.

“I’m particularly worried about the thousands of people heading to music festivals and sporting events this weekend,” Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Richard Bruno said in a news release. “They’ll be spending a long time outside, may have little access to shade and water and may not recognize the risk.”

Bruno said the area has had few hot days so far this year, and residents’ bodies have not yet acclimated to the heat.

A previous heat wave that scorched Oregon in 2021 left dozens of people dead. Power equipment buckled in the heat, triggering rolling blackouts for tens of thousands as temperatures soared above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

While this heat wave isn’t expected to be as intense as the 2021 scorcher, forecasters are concerned about its long duration, said Meteorologist Noah Alviz of the National Weather Service in Portland. “Getting into the upper 90s or even triple digits of 100 to 105 for four to five days – that is very unusual for this location,” Alviz told CNN.

“The triple-digit heat will expand northward into the Pacific Northwest and parts of the central Great Basin, with widespread highs rising into the 90s and low 100s,” the National Weather Service said. “The duration of this heat is also concerning as scorching above average temperatures are forecast to linger into next week.”

Over a dozen high-temperature records were either broken or tied on Thursday, including multiple California cities. Palmdale reached 110 degrees, and Madera hit 109 degrees.

The stage is set for wildfire spread

The extreme heat – combined with gusty winds and low humidity – means any wildfires that start will spread quickly through already parched vegetation.

Red flag warnings are in effect across the West, including in the area of the Thompson Fire, which has consumed over 3,700 acres in California’s Butte County since it was reported Tuesday. The blaze has forced thousands of people to evacuate and prompted hundreds of firefighters to battle the flames under the extreme heat in the Oroville area.

The wildfire has injured 11 firefighters, including eight who were affected by heat-related illnesses, according to Chris Peterson, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection – also known as Cal Fire.

The fire was 29% contained as of Thursday night, according to Cal Fire.

The state’s been seeing an active fire season, with 144,940 acres burned so far in 2024 compared to 7,812 acres burned by this time last year, according to Cal Fire.

There are now nearly two dozen active wildfires of varying sizes burning across California, and the Thompson Fire is among the largest, according to Cal Fire.

“We’re seeing fires on the coast in San Diego, to the foothills in Butte,” Cal Fire Deputy Director Nick Schuler told CNN Wednesday. “Our firefighters are battling fires across California and often times on the line for more than 24 hours. It’s difficult conditions that they face.”

A wildfire in California’s Mariposa County, the French Fire, triggered evacuation orders Thursday night after burning 400 acres just northwest of the small community of Mariposa, outside Yosemite National Park, Cal Fire posted on social media.

A shelter-in-place order was issued for two hotels near Yosemite National Park due to the wildfire, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday evening.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for the area of the Thompson Fire on Wednesday. The declaration cleared the path for additional resources, including the possibility of mobilizing the California National Guard to assist.

Fast-moving wildfire forces residents near Yosemite to flee homes

The Guardian: A fast-moving wildfire burning near Yosemite national park is threatening rural communities and prompting residents to flee, as California and states across the US west swelter under a brutal heatwave.

The so-called French fire broke out on Thursday and grew to more than 840 acres by Friday. The fire is 5% contained with “multiple evacuations and road closures in place”, according to local fire officials.

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