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Heat wave brings record-setting temperatures to Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa broke a 99-year-old mark for the hottest June 17 on record Thursday, with the National Weather Service officially logging a temperature of 104. It was indicative of the heat wave blasting the North Bay’s inland valleys, an ominous start to summer — and fire season — in a region already in the grips of a historic drought.

The Weather Service’s previous standard for June 17 in Santa Rosa was 101, recorded in 1922. You can say the mark was shattered.

“Or maybe melted,” said Brayden Murdock, a meteorologist with the weather service’s office in Monterey.

The Weather Service officially charts only a limited number of sites. But Accuweather, which provides weather data to The Press Democrat, recorded 114 in Cloverdale; 107 in Windsor and St. Helena; and 106 in Healdsburg and Calistoga. Accuweather, which measures temperatures at Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport, recorded a high of 102 there for its Santa Rosa reading. Bodega Bay topped out at a cool 65 degrees.

In Mendocino County, it was 104 in Ukiah. In Lake County, it was 105 in Middletown and 104 in Clearlake and Lower Lake.

The extreme weather had health officials and fire departments on the alert for emergencies.

“I worry about the health of people who are exposed to this,” said Dr. Kismet Baldwin, Sonoma County’s deputy public health officer. “High temperatures aren’t just an inconvenience. They can really be dangerous and deadly in some circumstances. Protecting ourselves, protecting our neighbors, trying to remain cool and hydrated throughout the event is really key. And sometimes planning ahead and knowing where you can go if you don’t have air conditioning.”

Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital treated two individuals for conditions such as dehydration that are directly related to the heat, and the hospital’s emergency department saw an increase in the number of patients coming in with chest pain indirectly related to the weather, said Leah Gehri, nursing director in the hospital’s ER, through a representative.

Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital saw no heat-related admissions as of about 5:30 p.m., according to a spokeswoman.

Neither Sonoma County nor the City of Santa Rosa opened cooling centers Thursday.

“Unlike last August, when temperatures got above 103 degrees, the public is able to go to shopping malls, movie theaters, etc., this time,” county communications manager Paul Gullixson explained. “Last year they were prevented from doing so because of COVID.”

The City of Santa Rosa uses specific measures when determining whether to open cooling centers, and not all the thresholds were crossed, according to communications coordinator Kristi Buffo. The city opens centers when the NWS forecasts three consecutive days with temperatures above 95 degrees, accompanied by night readings of 75 or more; and when the thermometer on a single day exceeds 100 degrees and the NWS forecasts a Heat Risk of Category 3.

Thursday’s Heat Risk did not trigger a response, said Paul Lowenthal, assistant fire marshal at the Santa Rosa Fire Department.

Santa Rosa does have two available public swimming pools open right now — Finley Aquatic Center and Ridgway Swim Center, Buffo said. And the lobbies of the city’s two community centers, Finley and Steele Lane, are open and air conditioned during business hours.

Wednesday was nearly as hot as Thursday, and there is only minor relief forecast for Friday, with Accuweather predicting highs of 97 in Santa Rosa, 101 in Healdsburg and 95 in Petaluma.

“It’s an interesting situation, in that (Thursday) night will still be pretty warm,” said Murdock, the NWS meteorologist. “The lows are not terribly low. Friday is looking a bit cooler, but it’s a stamina thing. When it’s hot for days, you can feel exhausted.”

Although PG&E had warned some customers their power could be shut off if electricity supplies could not keep up demand as temperatures soared statewide, no outages had been triggered by 9 p.m., according to the company’s website.

The state had been considering rotating power shut-offs between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursday because of supply-and-demand issues, Deanna Contreras, the company’s spokesperson for the North Bay, said.

PG&E did contact residents who would be impacted by any shut-offs, Contreras said.

The California Independent System Operator, which manages the flow of electricity in the state’s high-voltage power lines, has extended a Flex Alert through 9 p.m. Friday. It is asking all California residents to set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, avoid using major appliances and turn off lights from 5-10 p.m. Thursday and 6-9 p.m. Friday.

In addition, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District extended a Spare the Air alert for the Bay Area through Friday. Because of unhealthy air quality, the agency has asked residents to avoid driving and work remotely if possible to limit air pollution. The air quality may exacerbate asthma and other respiratory conditions, according to the agency.

The temperatures had Kathleen Wise and Pavel T. (he declined to give his last name) ducking for shade in the Sonoma Plaza, where a car thermometer read 99 degrees at midday.

“I didn’t know it even got this hot,” Pavel said.

The San Diego couple had booked a trip to Sonoma County two months ago, and noticed with growing interest as the dates got closer and the weather forecast got more extreme. They couldn’t check into their AirBnB until 3 p.m. Thursday, so they killed time playing dominoes in the park.

“We’re gonna go drink some wine,” Wise said. “Then we probably won’t mind as much.”

At Jacqueline Pels’ home near St. Vincent de Paul High School in Petaluma (car thermometer: 101), the balm was ice cream. About 1:30 p.m. Thursday, the unmistakable Oskey’s Ice Cream truck — a pastel-green 1963 Ford F100, now in its second generation of service — pulled to the front of the house. Pels was hosting a pool party and barbecue for some co-workers with the City of Vallejo who, like her, happened to have the day off.

Earlier that day, Oskey’s owner Dan Sager had texted his father a screenshot of the weather app showing 100 degrees projected for Petaluma. “Turn up your music,” his dad replied, “because people are hiding inside with their doors closed.”

The reception at Pels’ house was enthusiastic. Neighbors heard the sing-song ice cream truck music and wandered over, and the party guests took a break from the pool to buy It’s-Its and sno-cones. They had found a way to beat the repressive heat. Pels looked pleased, though she fretted a little about keeping her swimming pool full during a drought.

“Yeah, it’s also 105,” countered one her guests, Wes Simpson of Napa, who had an inflatable unicorn floaty draped around his waist. “Sorry. Your drought can jump out the window.”

Staff Writers Colin Atagi and Elissa Chudwin contributed to this report. You can reach Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @Skinny_Post.

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