Valley heat wave is set to get worse over next few days

rahumada@modbee.comJuly 1, 2013 

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Laurenio Andrande takes a drink of water between working in the hot afternoon on road base preparation at Archway Commons Apts. at 1101 Carver Rd., in Modesto, July 1, 2013.

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— Expectations for a weeklong heat wave scorching the Northern San Joaquin Valley didn't get any better Monday, as forecasters warned that overnight temperatures will not provide much relief.

The overnight low temperatures typically allow residents to cool off during extended periods of hot weather. As the days go on, the warm nights could create problems for people susceptible to heat-related illnesses, such as small children and the elderly.

"That's what really has us concerned," said Battalion Chief Hugo Patino of the Modesto Regional Fire Authority. "Usually, we get that delta breeze that really cools down the area overnight."

The National Weather Service issued an excessive-heat warning for most of Northern California, including Modesto and Merced. The warning will remain in effect through Thursday night.

The Modesto Irrigation District recorded a high temperature of XXX degrees in Modesto on Monday. The record high for that date was 107 degrees in 1950.

Over the next few days, high temperatures are expected to be 108 to 117 degrees for the valley and foothills, according to the weather service.

Forecasters predicted overnight lows from the mid- to high 70s through Thursday night in Modesto. The high temperature is expected to reach 109 degrees today and 110 Wednesday.

Patino urged residents to check on their neighbors vulnerable to the heat, especially those who don't have air conditioning, and invite them over to cool off. He said those seeking relief should head to a cooling shelter or the mall — "just get out of the heat."

Public safety officials responded to seven heat-related calls for help over the past few days throughout Stanislaus County. Those people suffered from overexertion doing activities outside, which authorities do not recommend. It was unclear to Patino whether any of them were hospitalized.

Modesto and Stanislaus County officials closed Tenth Street Place, their six-story government administration building, at 4 p.m. Monday after the cooling system failed because of the heat.

The air conditioning failed for the second through sixth floors. The average temperature on those floors was 88 degrees as of 3 p.m., said Andy Johnson, building maintenance director for the joint powers agency that operates the building for the two governments.

The air conditioning for the first floor and basement, where the City Council and Board of Supervisors hold their meetings, is a separate system and was not affected.

Johnson said about 800 government employees work at Tenth Street Place. He said the offices of the city manager and county executive made the decision to close the building because of health concerns for workers.

Work was being done on the roof to fix the air conditioning, and "we have every intention of being open tomorrow," Johnson said about 5 p.m. Monday.

Electricity providers were preparing Monday for the heat wave, offering customers tips on how to keep their homes relatively cool while avoiding heavy power usage.

Areas in Modesto, Oakdale and Merced County experienced heat-related power failures over the weekend as residents powered up their air conditioners to cool their homes.

In Oakdale, about 650 Pacific Gas & Electric Co. customers lost power about 3 p.m. Saturday. Most of them had their electricity restored almost immediately by rerouting power through alternate circuits, said PG&E spokeswoman Nicole Liebelt. The remaining 15 customers had power restored by 8:45 p.m., she said.

In Winton, 1,700 customers lost power about 2:45 p.m. Sunday. Liebelt said all the Winton customers had power restored shortly after 5 p.m. PG&E had all available personnel working over the weekend to respond to failures.

PG&E officials urged customers to avoid using heavy appliances between noon and 7 p.m. this week. Electricity demand was expected to peak at 4:30 p.m. Monday and today, authorities warned.

The Modesto Irrigation District had a handful of heat-related power failures scattered throughout town over the weekend, and crews worked to restore power as quickly as possible, said spokeswoman Melissa Williams.

She said there are some simple steps, such as closing window blinds and not using your oven, which could help cool your home avoid a large electricity bill at the end of the month.

"Especially when it doesn't cool down at night, because people are running their air conditioners day and night," Williams said.

Forecasters anticipate a slight cooling on the Fourth of July, with the high temperature reaching 106 and gradually declining to a high of 96 degrees Saturday.

The hot weather increases the risk for people susceptible to heat exhaustion, along with increased danger to livestock. The warning from the weather service means extra precautions should be taken.

Authorities recommend that any strenuous activities outside be done in the early morning or evening. People should wear light, loose-fitting clothing when possible and drink plenty of water.

Modesto Irrigation District customers can report power failures by calling (209) 526-8222.

PG&E customers can report a power failure by calling 1-800-743-5002.

Stanislaus County residents seeking updated information on the heat wave can visit the county's emergency services website at stanemergency.com or follow StanEmergency on Facebook and @StanEmergency on Twitter.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine contributed to this report. Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or (209) 578-2394. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeCourts.


ENERGY-SAVING TIPS

• Keep your thermostat at 78 (higher is better) when you're home. Set it at 85 when you'll be away for a while.

• Use fans to circulate air so you'll feel cooler. Don't run fans when you're out of the room.

• Make sure ceiling fans are working properly and are free of dust. Switch the direction and draw air upward, cooling the room and ensuring constant air flow.

• Avoid heat buildup indoors. Keep blinds and curtains drawn. For dinner, try a refreshing salad, cook in the microwave or grill outdoors.

• Run washing machines and dishwashers after 10 p.m.; newer models have timers to make it easy.

• Open windows at night to catch a cooling breeze.

• On extremely hot days, precool your home by running the air conditioner a short time in the early morning.

• When dust and pet hair build up on refrigerator condenser coils, the motor uses more electricity. Make sure the coils are cleaned so air can circulate freely.

• Remove furniture or items that block air vents.

• Maintain your air conditioner — a simple cleaning can lower cooling bills and prolong the life of your air conditioner. Regularly wash or replace your air conditioner filters.

• Turn off lights and electronic equipment when you leave a room.

Source: Modesto Irrigation District

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