Anyone who has lived in the Northern San Joaquin Valley for any period of time knows that temperatures regularly hit triple digits in the summertime. As the common refrain goes, "At least it's a dry heat."
Except this time, it isn't.
The National Weather Service is predicting a sustained heat wave through at least the middle of next week. In Modesto, temperatures are expected to reach the century mark today and top out at 108 degrees Tuesday before falling to 103 on Wednesday and what by then will seem a refreshing 99 on Thursday.
"What's different about this one is not only is it prolonged for several days, but it's combined with some moisture, so it's going to feel a little muggier, a little bit uncomfortable," said Stefanie Henry, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "We're worried about heat stress on people and livestock and pets."
The Weather Service has issued an "excessive heat watch" from Sunday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon, predicting highs from 105 to 112 in the greater Sacramento area, which includes Modesto. The watch comes into effect when there is a combination of high temperatures for a prolonged period during which it doesn't cool off all that much at night.
Modesto residents should expect lows to drop into the high 60s overnight through Saturday, but only into the 70s Sunday through Thursday. That's some respite, but not much.
"We are a little bit worried about it still being in the 70s," Henry said.
So is Christine Williams, whose home in the Terrace Trailer Park on River Road has no air conditioning.
On Thursday, as temperatures neared but didn't quite reach triple digits, Williams opened the doors to her trailer and rested on her couch with a fan on high a few feet from her head. When the heat becomes unbearable, Williams said, she soaks her hair and even her clothes in cool water, which makes the fan temporarily function as an air conditioner.
She said she will likely spend much of the next few days at her adult daughter's home, which has air conditioning.
For those with nowhere to go, The Salvation Army will open the doors of its Berberian Homeless Shelter at Ninth and D streets in Modesto. Officials said this year they will open the shelter any day temperatures are expected to top 100 through Sept. 26. Hours are noon to 4 p.m.
The city of Merced will open its cooling center at the Merced Civic Center on 18th Street from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday through Wednesday.
Stanislaus County has operated several cooling centers in the past, but has no plans to open them this weekend. That could change, depending on conditions. Residents can check the county's Office of Emergency Services website or call a heat hot line for recorded information.
Cities and other organizations also operate community swimming pools and water play areas in parks where folks can escape the heat of the day. Local reservoirs also offer a respite from the sun, though officials caution people not to drink alcohol and swim.
The water needn't be deep, as long as it's cold. Sprinklers do the trick, or for a little something extra, water features at several Modesto parks can be a lot of fun for the little ones.
Kathy Detherage picks up her 15-month-old granddaughter from the baby sitter every day and takes her to Sanders Neighborhood Park in Village I. A water feature at the east side of the park has motion sensors that activate the sprays, which shoot up from the ground and out from blocks along the edge.
Another option, for those who can manage it, is to get away completely: Monterey is expecting a high of about 70 throughout next week, with San Francisco a degree or two warmer.
Looking ahead, there's no sign of any real relief.
"It's hard to tell right now," Henry said. Though temperatures are expected to drop a bit late next week, any drastic changes are unlikely, as the system will weaken rather than moving away.
"I don't really see much of an end."
On the Net: www.stanemergency.com. Wait until the second screen comes up with heat tips and click on it. Heat hot line: (209) 558-8035.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy contributed to this report.
Bee Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter @pattyguerra.
Drink plenty of water.
Avoid strenuous activity during hottest part of the day.
Never leave children or pets unattended in a vehicle.
Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing.
Bring pets inside, where the air conditioning is on.
Check on family, friends and neighbors who spend much of their time alone or are more likely to be affected by the heat.
If you must be out in the heat, try to rest in shady areas.
Listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperature changes.
Don't drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar, which cause you to lose more body fluid.
Wear protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat with sunglasses.
Fans alone won't protect you from extreme heat; use your air conditioner and keep it well maintained.
If your indoor temperature remains at more than 90 degrees, seek shelter in an air-conditioned building.
Sources: National Weather Service, Modesto Regional Fire Authority