Heat wave settles over Western U.S., bakes Southern California

Temperatures continued to climb across Southern California on Friday as a heat wave expected to last into next week settled over the region.

“By this weekend, it’ll cover most of the Western United States,” National Weather Service specialist Stuart Seto said.

By 2 p.m. the heat was at near-record levels for several cities in the Antelope Valley and in California deserts.


It was 104 degrees in Lancaster, 103 in Acton, 102 in Palmdale and 94 in Burbank. The mercury hit 115 at Palm Springs International Airport and 114 in Death Valley, which isn’t at its hottest until 4 or 5 p.m., Seto said.

The weather service’s Las Vegas office projects that Death Valley could hit 129 degrees Sunday and Monday, breaking decades-old records. The all-time record for Death Valley is 134 degrees.

Not surprisingly, there’s big business in keeping people cool.

“We have seen an uptick in attendance in people trying to cool off,” said Michele Wischmeyer, spokeswoman for Palace Entertainment, which runs the San Dimas water park Raging Waters. “If we could carry the heat wave to the East Coast, that’d be perfect.”

Los Angeles-based Magic Touch Appliance Repair, which installs and services air conditioners and other major appliances, is also preparing for the weekend.

Nadia Melicor, who handles the company’s accounting and dispatches technicians to job sites, said the company is planning to bring in a second person to help answer calls for service for the next week at least.

Business has been picking up the last couple of weeks, and the boss is headed back in from out of the country Saturday, she said.

This is the first major heat wave to bake the Southland since 2009, Seto said. By next week it will stretch from western New Mexico to the four corners where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet, plus all of California and into Oregon, he said.

In Los Angeles, the heat is a particular concern to firefighters because it comes in a year of record dry conditions that have already sparked several major brush fires in the area.

Fireworks also went on sale Friday in some areas, adding another fire danger. Fireworks are to be sold in 295 designated communities in the state through the Fourth of July.

Since January, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has responded to about 2,900 fires, department spokesman Daniel Berlant said. In an average year, he said, it would have responded to fewer than 1,800 by this time.

Dry brush is being blamed for the increase in fires, Berlant said. He added that current weather conditions are more typical of late August or early September.

“We’re in a long-term drought,” said Bill Patzert, a climatologist with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. “The situation is extremely crispy and dry. That equals incendiary.”

Several agencies opened cooling centers — air-conditioned public facilities that can be used to escape the heat. Information about the centers can be found by dialing 211, the county’s information line. Click on the following link to find an interactive map of the centers.


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