Santa Rosa sets a new high temperature record

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The Bay Area sizzled Friday with record high temperatures in a heat wave predicted to maintain its grip on the region today, straining power grids, heightening fire fears and sending people to swimming areas and cooling centers for relief.

Santa Rosa baked with a record for the date of 110 degrees, the hottest day of the year so far. It also surpassed the previous Sept. 1 record of 105 degrees, set in 1950.

“Everyone broke records today. Some broke all-time highs,” said National Weather forecaster Steve Anderson.

In Sonoma County, a handful of cities were hotter than Santa Rosa, according to figures reported by AccuWeather. Cloverdale hit a high of 115 degrees, Rohnert Park topped out at 113, Healdsburg hit 112, and Sebastopol and Petaluma reached 111 degrees. Discrepancies between AccuWeather figures and those reported by the Weather Service made it difficult to determine whether the cities broke records for the day or set all-time marks.

Calistoga, Kentfield and San Rafael also set new Sept. 1 records, with temperatures of 110 degrees, 107 degrees and 109 degrees, respectively. Elsewhere in Sonoma County, Petaluma reported a high of 106 degrees, Sebastopol reported 109 degrees and the Sonoma Valley weathered a 110-degree high, according to the Weather Service.

In another eye-popping number, San Francisco hit an all-time high of 106 degrees, shattering records reaching back more than 140 years.

The city’s famous cooling fog, which usually spares San Francisco while the rest of the state broils, was nowhere to be found.

“The fog, it’s been obliterated, shunted about 300 miles offshore,” Anderson said.

The extreme, historic heat was being blamed on a ridge of high pressure that settled over the western United States and is excepted to push temperatures as high Saturday before easing slightly over the rest of the Labor Day weekend.

“We’re seeing a very warm air mass, no sea breeze. What little breeze there is, is not contributing to much cooling,” Anderson said.

With millions of people visiting beaches, parks and campgrounds over the weekend, Cal Fire was urging Californians to be extra careful with their outdoor activities, such as never moving a vehicle into high grass.

Even with crews scheduled around the clock, PG&E was expecting outages as air conditioners and fans use record amounts of electricity.

“Because there has been extensive heat for multiple days, the equipment is not able to cool down as fast,” PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said of the utility’s transformers,

Expected energy use on Friday was predicted to eclipse a previous record demand set in July of 2006.

She said customers should try to avoid using their major appliances such as ovens, vacuum cleaners, washers and dryers, between 1 and 10 p.m. But they should also prepare for the possibility of power outages.

Some high schools were scheduling their football contests earlier in the day to avoid any heat related problems. Novato High School, for example, rescheduled games against visiting Piner High to 9 a.m. Saturday.

The Petaluma Shakespeare Company canceled Saturday’s outdoor performance of the play Henry IV, citing the heat and smoky air, with plans to resume Sunday night. Other event organizers, including those putting on the Taste of Sonoma Saturday at the Green Music Center, were taking precautionary steps to keep guests cool.

The haze was primarily the result of drifting smoke from numerous fires in Northern California and southern Oregon, including the Chetco Bar fire currently burning 131,197 acres in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and the Eclipse Complex burning 76,100 acres in the Klamath National Forest.

But closer to home, the hot and dry conditions coupled with gusty northerly winds prompted a “red flag” fire weather warning through Saturday morning in the North and East Bay hills.

“We are in the height of the fire season now,” said Cal Fire spokeswoman Suzie Blankenship. “The worst combination is high heat and high winds on a wildland fire.”

She noted that 95 percent of wildland fires are human caused and she urged people to be extra mindful, for example by postponing major yard work with equipment that can accidentally spark a blaze.

Firefighters have been busy up and down the state with major wildfires.

“We have seen 375 new wildfires over the past week in California, of which 228 were within Cal Fire’s jurisdiction,” stated Lynne Tolmachoff, the agency’s chief of public education.

The most significant local blaze Friday was a 15-acre brush fire on wildland near Lake Sonoma. Firefighters had it corralled by nightfall.

Air quality was forecast to be poor again Saturday with unhealthy ozone levels throughout the Bay Area.

The smoke from drifting wildfires hundreds of miles away was unpleasant Friday,

“It’s terrible. I could see and smell it. It seems to make the heat feel worse,” said Tom Ehlers, 63, who was relaxing inside a cooling station set up at Santa Rosa’s Finley Community Center.

While the mercury outside was 106 degrees, the temperature inside the spacious air-conditioned building was a soothing 69 or 70 degrees.

About 13 people had signed in by mid-Friday afternoon to take advantage of the cooling center with its free WiFi, cold water, chairs and mats on the floor. The center also will be open Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“I’m surprised how few people are here,” said Giulia Latini, who was streaming a Netflix sci-fi movie on her phone, eating chips and salsa, with her service dog “Bee” stretched out close by.

Garnet Hampton, a health care worker, brought her two small dogs to Finley Center, too.

“I was going to take the dogs to the park. I said ‘it’s too hot. I’m going to check out the cooling center,’ ” she said.

The heat spurred others to change their routines Friday.

“I was going to walk to the store. I decided not to, “ said Annie O’Mallon, who was waiting to cross Fourth Street in Old Courthouse Square to return to her nearby apartment.

“It literally feels like it’s burning my skin,” she said as she stood in the sunlight around 2 p.m. as the heat hovered around 105 degrees.

Staff Writer J.D. Morris contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 707-521-5214 or On Twitter@clarkmas

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