The last time Fresno flirted with several days of 110 degree-plus weather, heat played a role in killing 14 people. Now at the doorstep of July, Fresno is flirting again.
After triple digits on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the temperature could range up to 108 today and 110 on Monday in Fresno. The forecast for Tuesday is 109.
You know the drill if you have lived a few years in the San Joaquin Valley. The region turns into an oven, you avoid the outdoors and pray the power doesn't go out.
A monster dome of high pressure has formed over a big part of the West, heating up the usual places around California. Death Valley's forecast is 129 today and Monday. That's five degrees shy of the highest temperature ever recorded on the planet. The 134-degree reading was in Death Valley on July 10, 1913.
And in a few days, fireworks on the Fourth of July will produce plumes of metals that can cause serious respiratory problems. July, the hottest month of the year in California, can be downright dangerous.
"It's the time of year when people need to be careful," said meteorologist Gary Sanger of the National Weather Service in Hanford.
One of the biggest worries is the potentially fatal mistake of leaving a child or pet in the car, Sanger said.
"If it's 109 degrees outside, the inside of a car could be 30 to 40 degrees hotter," he said.
Heat can kill
An infant boy died earlier this month when he was unintentionally left in a vehicle in southwest Fresno. The outside temperature was 101 degrees.
Similar tragedies happened in 2006 during Fresno's most memorable heat siege in more than six decades. For five days in late July, the temperature climbed to 112 degrees or higher. On three of those days, the high was 113. Fresno's all-time record of 115 remained untouched, but there were fatalities.
In addition to the 14 who died in Fresno County, three dozen others died from exposure in the widespread heat wave in California.
One victim was a man who was found collapsed in Madera County. He had a body temperature of 106.5 degrees and a blood alcohol level of 0.26, three times the legal threshold for driving, authorities said.
"The No. 1 killer in heat is dehydration," said Dr. Praveen Buddiga, a Fresno physician who specializes in allergies, asthma and sinus disease. "Alcohol will actually dehydrate you."
Buddiga said people need to be smart about living in this kind of heat. Take care of outdoor chores early, wear a broad-brimmed hat and stay in an air-conditioned building in the afternoon.
What if your power goes out? Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is prepared to quickly take care of outages, said spokesman Denny Boyles. PG&E approaches heat waves the same way as storms, he said.
If you lose power or you don't have a good air conditioner, you could visit city cooling centers, shop at enclosed malls or go to a movie. It's especially important for people with health problems to stay out of the heat, Buddiga said.
"People with respiratory or cardiovascular issues really, all people who are frail should stay indoors during heat waves," he said. "Drink fluids and avoid getting outside in the air."
Air quality gets worse
Air pollution has not been a problem over the last two weeks of June on the Valley floor, but that's expected to change quickly.
Surrounded by mountains, the Valley is a perfect incubator for summer ozone, which forms on hot, sunny, mostly windless days. Oxides of nitrogen from vehicles bake together with volatile organic compounds from gasoline vapors and dairies to create corrosive ozone.
The gas, which attacks the skin, eyes and lungs, can sometimes remain trapped for days in the Valley, building into an air-quality crisis.
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District urges people to follow its real-time pollution reports online. Anyone can sign up for email and text messages, which are issued hourly for areas throughout the Valley as air-quality changes.
The system is called Real-Time Air Advisory Network, or RAAN, said spokeswoman Jaime Holt. She said the district has spent the last few years telling the Valley about it.
"We encourage coaches and parents to check with RAAN when sporting events are going on for children," said Holt. "Sometimes games will be shifted into the early evening, depending on air-quality in the afternoon."
Another big air-quality concern is wildfires. After two dry winters, the Valley's grasslands and the Sierra Nevada's forests are primed for a smoky fire season. Fires also create ozone-making gases.
A more immediate concern might be the Fourth of July. In the past, air monitors have recorded mammoth spikes in particle pollution as fireworks displays shower neighborhoods with smoke and microscopic bits of metal.
"We're suggesting that people might go to one of the fireworks events, rather than have their own fireworks at home," Holt said. "We're also hoping we see a little break in the heat by then."
Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. through Sunday
- Locations: Ted C. Wills Community Center, 770 N. San Pablo Ave.; Frank H. Ball Neighborhood Center, 760 Mayor Ave.; Mosqueda Community Center, 4670 E. Butler Ave.; and Pinedale Community Center, 7170 N. San Pablo Ave.
- Splash parks: The free water-play areas are open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. except for Tuesdays, when maintenance is done. Then they are open from noon to 8 p.m. Locations: Dickey Park Playground, 50 N. Calaveras St.; Figarden Loop Park, 4265 W. Figarden Drive; Todd Beamer Neighborhood Park, 1890 E. Plymouth Way.
- Clovis: The city will direct people to Sierra Vista Mall, 1050 Shaw Ave., Clovis. The mall is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. Sunday. Transportation is available to cool zones through Clovis Stageline at 324-2760 and Clovis Roundup at 324-2760.
- Coalinga: The city offers places to stay cool at City Hall, the library and the senior center during regular business hours. The Coalinga Police Department's front lobby at 270 N. Sixth St. and the Coalinga Fire Department at 300 W. Elm St. are available as cooling centers 24 hours a day.
- Sanger: City will open its annex building from noon to 6 p.m. when temperatures reach 105. Elderly residents can also use the Sanger Senior Center from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Kings County: Plan for extreme heat includes directing people to the Hanford Mall and county library branches, among other places, when heat is too much to bear. Call (800) 649-5399 for details.
- Madera: Pan Am Community Center, 703 E. Sherwood Way, Madera, (559) 675-2095. Open weekdays 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; Madera Rescue Mission, 332 Elm Ave., Madera, (559) 675-8321; open on an "as needed" basis.
- Yosemite Lakes Park: Clubhouse, 30250 Yosemite Springs Parkway, Coarsegold, (559) 658-7466, Daily 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
- Visalia: City will open its transit center at 425 E. Oak Ave. from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Fourth of July. Call (559) 713-4266 for details.
- Tulare County: For a list of cooling centers in other Tulare County communities, go to fblinks.com/cool
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6316, firstname.lastname@example.org or @markgrossi on Twitter.