Spending Labor Day weekend under a heat dome

Traffic streams on an interstate through the burn zone of a fire.
Traffic passes by a Route fire burn zone along Interstate 5 near Lake Castaic on Thursday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Sept. 2. I’m Melissa Gomez, a Metro reporter for The Times, and I’m writing from my un-air-conditioned apartment in Los Angeles.

We are going into a long weekend, with many of us looking forward to Labor Day and the reprieve it may grant in the workweek. But it’s hard to ignore the “heat dome” hovering over California. The National Weather Service has issued excessive heat warnings and advisories across several counties.

The heat dome, a phenomenon that typically brings about broiling conditions as summer comes to an end, is expected to last at least six days. But it’s unclear when this heat wave, the season’s longest and hottest so far, will end. Unsurprisingly, climate change is leading to more extreme heat events.

In my own apartment, I find myself fighting the sunlight. My windows usually let in a flood of natural light. Now every morning I cover them, battling the rays to keep things at least a little cooler while I work.

And like me, Californians — from Sacramento to San Diego — are feeling the intense heat bearing down beneath the dome. In San Luis Obispo County, one meteorologist said temperatures for inland areas would be “sizzling hot.” It’s going to be “disgustingly and dangerously hot” in Modesto, where the temperature is expected to reach 109 degrees. In the Central Valley, Kern County is expecting daily temperatures at or above 105 degrees for the next week.

For students, the extreme heat is shaping their school life: At some Los Angeles schools, asphalt can reach 145 degrees, and parents are demanding more shade so their children can play outside. In San Diego, students and parents at one high school are pushing to get working air conditioning systems into every classroom.

Some workers, especially those who work outdoors, were preparing as the heat wave got underway. Food truck workers told LAist that temperatures inside the trucks soar even higher than outside, so they were taking precautions to stay safe from heat-related illness — including plenty of water and frequent breaks.

The extreme heat is also fueling wildfires. The Route fire near Castaic exploded this week and burned more than 5,200 acres. By Thursday evening, it was 27% contained. The wildfire forced evacuations, and at least seven firefighters were hospitalized after suffering heat exhaustion injuries. In a rare move, officials pulled back firefighters on the front lines to reduce the risks they faced as temperatures reached 110 degrees.


Amid the heat and the fires, there are things we can do to stay safe — and maybe even enjoy the holiday. My colleagues around the newsroom have put together resources on how to keep your cool this Labor Day weekend. Here are some tips on how to stay safe during a heat wave, how to keep your pets safe, and a list of parks and public gardens that provide shady respite. If you’re able, here’s how to help out unhoused neighbors who are vulnerable to the extreme heat.

At home, you can make some ice pops to stay cool. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, try some of these homemade cold treats. Personally, I like a good homemade watermelon agua fresca. Here’s a recipe, in case you’re interested.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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L.A.’s history of Black-Korean relationships helped inspire a debut novelist. “Which Side Are You On” touches on racial justice and historical traumas, but author Ryan Lee Wong says at heart it’s “a story about a mother and son trying to understand each other.” Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Police Department has released video of a high-speed chase that killed two bystanders. The move came after attorneys for families of the two people killed accused the department of covering up its role in the deaths. A police report revealed LAPD officers had pursued a motorist shortly before the crash. Los Angeles Times


Politicos begin to consider what life after Nancy Pelosi will look like in Congress. The House speaker has pushed progressive policies for years, ensuring that California always had a seat at the table, but some expect she may retire after the midterm election. Los Angeles Times

Bills aimed at creating a California abortion sanctuary head to the governor. California is on the verge of making it easier for nurse practitioners to provide abortions, barring coroner investigations following a fetal death and dedicating $20 million to expand access to reproductive care programs in Los Angeles County under bills passed by the state Legislature. Los Angeles Times


California lawmakers approved funding to keep Diablo Canyon open for five more years. Despite pressure from environmental groups to close the nuclear plant, lawmakers sided with Gov. Newsom and approved a $1.4-billion loan for the plant, the state’s single largest power source. Los Angeles Times

Column: In Arizona, there are fears that a GOP candidate may cost Republicans control of the Senate. GOP nominee Blake Masters, who has endorsed Donald Trump’s election lies, may increase his Democratic opponent’s chances of winning, writes Mark Z. Barabak. Los Angeles Times


After a California teen filed for emancipation, his mother had him handcuffed and driven to a Missouri boarding school. The mother was arrested after being indicted for violating a protective order a judge had issued for the 17-year-old. She remains in custody. San Francisco Chronicle

A young woman who accused three former San Diego State football players of gang-raping her has yet to receive the results of her rape exam, her attorney said. Police departments are required to provide information about sexual assault exam results to victims who request it, per California law. Los Angeles Times

After police arrested a well-known Hollywood writer-producer on suspicion of sexual assault and rape, his alleged victims spoke up. Multiple women shared stories about Eric Weinberg, whom they alleged sexually assaulted them. The Hollywood Reporter


That dead fish smell? That’s the red tide. Scientists don’t know the exact cause of this algal bloom, but it’s the largest they’ve seen in a decade in San Francisco Bay, where workers are removing hundreds of dead fish. San Francisco Chronicle

California students are facing long wait times for mental health services. School mental health professionals describe a troubling scene: large numbers of young people in pain as they enter their third school year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Los Angeles Times

Thousands of California students didn’t start the school year on campus because they lacked childhood vaccines. In the 4-to-6 age group, more than 1 in 8 California students lacked measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations. EdSource

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Los Angeles: sunny, 95. San Diego: sunny, 84. San Francisco: sunny, 70. San Jose: sunny, 85. Fresno: stormy, 111. Sacramento: sunny, 104.


Today’s California memory comes from Debra Roman:

Summertime as a kid in the late ’60s was carefree and hot in our small town located in the Central Valley. My sister and I along with our two best friends would ride 10-speed [bicycles] all day. My dad managed an Army surplus and visiting him at work was always fun. We’d play in erected tents, check out gadgets and watch people gather fresh worms or live crickets before heading out on a fishing adventure. Then we’d head to our city’s swimming pool to cool off. The sounds of Stevie Wonder, Blood Sweat & Tears and the 5th Dimension would play over the loudspeakers. We’d close the place down, get on our bikes and ride five miles home. We couldn’t wait for the next day.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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