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California heat wave claims the lives of 2 Bay Area seniors

Traffic on the 101 Freeway backs up during a 2015 heat wave. A high-pressure system centered over the Southwest has led to record highs across California this week.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A record-breaking heat wave that has been roasting California for days has claimed the lives of two seniors in San Jose, public health officials said Wednesday.

A 72-year-old man and an 87-year-old woman died from heat-related illnesses Monday, according to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. Days of punishing heat probably aggravated any existing illnesses they may have had and contributed to their deaths, said Joy Alexiou, a department spokeswoman.

“It’s a cumulative effect of days on end of high heat,” she said.

Dr. Michelle Jorden, chief medical examiner for Santa Clara County, said hyperthermia and heat stress occurs when a person’s heat-regulation system can’t handle hot temperatures.

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“It is tragic when someone dies of hyperthermia since in most every case it could have been prevented,” she said in a statement.

Like most of California, San Jose has been under a heat advisory for several days due to a dry, high-pressure system centered over the Southwest.

On Monday, temperatures reached 94 degrees in San Jose, according to the National Weather Service in San Francisco.

Across the Sacramento Valley and inland communities, temperatures soared past 100 degrees and hit a record-breaking 113 degrees in Redding. The previous high for Redding was 104 degrees, set in 1988.

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In Southern California on Tuesday, temperatures in the low desert communities were “among the highest ever recorded,” the weather service said. Death Valley hit 127 — seven degrees shy of the hottest temperature ever recorded on the planet.

An all-time record high for San Diego County was set Tuesday in Ocotillo Wells, when the mercury hit 124 degrees.

Will Pi, a meteorologist for the weather service, said temperatures will increase three to five degrees Thursday throughout the Bay Area.

Meanwhile, health officials urged Californians to drink plenty of water, take cool baths or showers and stay indoors.

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“Extreme heat such as this is not just an inconvenience, it can be dangerous and even deadly,” said Santa Clara County Executive Dr. Jeffrey Smith. “But we can protect ourselves, our families and our neighbors if we take steps to remain cool and hydrated.”

veronica.rocha@latimes.com

Twitter: VeronicaRochaLA

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