With triple-digit temperatures forecast to reach their peak through much of the region Thursday, some communities are offering ways to escape the heat while public officials are warning that conditions may be ripe for poor air quality and intermittent power outages.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued a Spare the Air alert for Thursday because of excessive levels of smog expected.
The air district issues a Spare the Air day when weather conditions, like Thursday’s forecast of light winds and unusually hot temperatures, will combine with vehicle exhaust to make an excessive amount of smog. Thursday’s will be the second Spare the Air alert of the season.
On Spare the Air days, drivers are encouraged to find alternatives to driving alone to work or other destinations to limit the number of vehicles on the road. Young children, seniors and people with respiratory and heart conditions should also avoid prolonged exposure to smog, and outdoor exercise should only take place in the early morning when concentrations are lower, air district officials said.
Meanwhile, operators of California’s electric grid warned earlier this week they may have to ask people to conserve energy to avoid rotating power outages when temperatures rise.
The California Independent System Operator, which operates the state’s electric grid, issued a Flex Alert for Thursday that asks residents and visitors to set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, avoid using major appliances and to turn off unnecessary lights.
The alert is in effect from 5 to 10 p.m. Consumers are encouraged to get comfortable beforehand by pre-cooling their home, using major appliances, closing window coverings, charging devices and charging electric vehicles.
Conservation can make a big difference, ISO officials said. Past conservation by consumers has avoided grid emergencies such as rotating outages.
“The public’s help is essential when extreme weather or other factors beyond our control put undue stress on the electric grid,” said Elliot Mainzer, president and chief executive officer of the ISO, in a news release. “We have seen the huge impact that occurs when consumers pitch in and limit their energy use. Their cooperation can really make a difference.”
The ISO in other circumstances could get power from other states during a California heat wave. But many other western states are expected to be affected by the same heat as California so demand will be great regionwide, ISO officials said.
Cooling centers opened
As temperatures continue to spike, some Bay Area communities have announced that cooling centers will be available to residents.
Santa Clara County has an updated list of at least 16 cooling centers that will be available around the county. Contra Costa County has five such centers that will be open through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Antioch, Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Hercules and Richmond.
In Alameda County, cooling centers will be available in Livermore and San Leandro. The Solano County Library also plans to make its library branches available as cooling centers.
The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for the Bay Area beginning at 11 a.m. Wednesday through 1 p.m. Friday for interior valleys and the Monterey Bay region.
On Thursday, the heat advisory will be upgraded to a heat warning starting at 11 a.m., meaning temperatures have the potential to exceed 110 degrees in the next 12 to 24 hours, according to the National Weather Service.
Temperatures in Santa Clara County are expected to be a bit lower and reach the upper 80s and low 90s with Thursday being the hottest day. More interior parts of the Bay Area are expected to experience mid-90s to low 100s.
The National Weather Service said the most vulnerable are those who spend a lot of time outdoors, those without air conditioning, young children, the elderly and those with chronic ailments.
Impacts of a heat wave includes heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Residents are encouraged to check in with those most vulnerable and call 911 for those who may be experiencing distress due to heat.
The county also encourages residents to drink lots of water and beverages with electrolytes and avoid alcohol, caffeine and lots of sugar because it speeds up fluid loss.
They also recommend limiting physical activity during peak heat hours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; cooling off by taking a shower; wearing lightweight, lightly colored clothes; wearing wide-brimmed hats or umbrellas when outside; using sunglasses and sunscreen; keeping people and pets out of closed cars and avoiding bundling babies in heavy clothing.