Santa Rosa sets new heat record, at 115 degrees, as Sonoma County sizzles in extreme heat wave
Santa Rosa hit its hottest-ever recorded temperature Tuesday as a blistering, weeklong heat wave sent people scrambling for indoor cover and overtaxed the state’s power grid, again raising the specter of a more dangerous climate era five years after a historic firestorm in the region did much the same.
The official temperature in Santa Rosa reached 115 degrees in downtown, breaking the previous record of 113 set July 11, 1913, according to the National Weather Service. Tuesday’s record also set a new threshold for the hottest daily temperature and the hottest September day, re-topping more than a century of local heat marks.
In some parts of the county and surrounding region, temperatures were even higher.
The Lake Sonoma Recreation Area, on the northern end of the county, recorded a high of 118 degrees, said Nick Canepa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. In most parts of the county, temperatures ranged between 110 and 115 degrees, he added.
Cloverdale reached 116 degrees, while Healdsburg topped out at 115. Sebastopol, also hit 115 and Windsor and Rohnert Park got to 114 and 112, respectively. Petaluma was on the “cooler” side at 108 degrees. Ukiah, in Mendocino County, hit 117.
Weather service forecasters said temperatures could have climbed even higher were it not for a sudden rush of onshore winds from the ocean that brought some relief by midafternoon.
Other parts of the inland Bay Area and much of the broiling Central Valley saw no such relief, as temperatures hit 116 in downtown Sacramento and 115 in Stockton, extending a heat wave that first hit the region last week.
The state’s power grid operator Tuesday evening signaled the possibility of rolling blackouts through 8 p.m. as unprecedented demand for electricity pushed the grid to the breaking point. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. officials confirmed they would be implementing outages across Northern and Central California.
Fewer than 200 customers in Sonoma County were impacted by power outages by 5 p.m., according to Deanna Contreras, a PG&E spokesperson.
The city of Healdsburg, which operates its own municipal utility tied into PG&E lines, announced before 7 p.m. it would be shutting off power to parts of the community of 12,000.
Sonoma County residents endured the punishing temperatures largely by seeking refuge indoors, under a sky veiled by smog and shimmering with reflected heat.
No heat-related fatalities were reported Tuesday and several hospital officials said they had not seen any significant increase in cases of dehydration or other heat-related illnesses.
Schools took steps to limit outdoor activities and sports Tuesday.
At Santa Rosa City Schools, the county’s largest district, that included physical education classes being brought indoors and sports practices being canceled, according to district spokesperson Vanessa Wedderburn.
West county school officials late Monday announced that Analy and Laguna high schools would have a modified, half-day schedule on account of the extreme heat. Other schools in the west county district stuck with regular schedules but modified PE classes to hold them indoors.
Early in the day, an air conditioning equipment failure at Santa Rosa Community Health's pediatric campus on Stony Point Road forced the provider to move operations to its Lombardi campus off Sebastopol Road.
Annemarie Brown, a spokeswoman for SRCH, said repairs on the air conditioner will take place Tuesday night and operations at the pediatric campus should resume Wednesday.
Numerous cooling centers offered some relief to those without air conditioning or a place to live.
At the Sonoma County Central Library, people took refuge from the heat as they read books and publications or used the internet.
“It’s hotter than ever,” said Micah McConnell, 40, who sat at one of the computers with three bottles of cold water, two already drained. He currently does not have housing.
Compared to outside, “this is much better,” he said, drenched in sweat.
For McConnell, the historic heat was a reminder that climate change is real. He said he was worried about the possibility that rising temperatures could lead to catastrophic more wildfires.
Santa Rosa resident Elvia Parmelee, 70, sat in the library reading “The Girls in Queens: A Novel.”
Parmelee said like many others in Santa Rosa, she does not have air conditioning in her second-floor apartment. When she left her home Tuesday it was 87 degrees inside.
“So here I am cooling off,” she said, adding that she’s been checking in on her older friends experiencing power outages or without AC.
Signs of climate change
West Coast climate scientist Daniel Swain marveled at temperatures that already were several degrees ahead of where they had been a day earlier, which laid the stage for Tuesday’s historic high and even more sweltering conditions that pose a risk to human health and to the state’s strained energy grid.
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