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‘These are not normal.’ Warnings issued as Valley heat to approach near record

See different ways to escape the summer heat in the Central Valley

Finding shade, a pool or a popsicle are just a few ways to find relief from the Valley's triple-digit temperatures.
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Finding shade, a pool or a popsicle are just a few ways to find relief from the Valley's triple-digit temperatures.

Visitors to a Fresno farmers market Saturday conjured up blistering images in their minds to describe the central San Joaquin Valley’s notorious summer heat.

Menopause “hot flashes” and opening an oven while baking were among the harshest comparisons.

Valley temperatures are only going to get hotter, expected to peak at 108 degrees Sunday, then drop to a high of around 104 in some places Monday. Temperatures in Fresno on Saturday rose to 104 degrees as of 4 p.m., the National Weather Service reported.

Fresno area temperatures Sunday won’t be far from a 110-degree record high for July 28, set in 1980.

“These are hot temperatures that are coming in. These are not normal,” said meteorologist Jim Andersen with the National Weather Service at Hanford. “We are only two degrees from a record that was set in 1980.”

The National Weather Service issued excessive heat warnings for the region. They were in effect Saturday and pick up again Sunday until 8 p.m. The warning downgrades to an excessive heat advisory Monday.

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Visitors meander in the cool water along the Waimea Lazy River at Island Waterpark on a hot afternoon in Fresno on Saturday, July 27, 2019. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

These rising temperatures come just a few days after some Valley locations received a little light rainfall and higher humidity. Showers aren’t expected to return to the area this coming week.

Valley temperatures will be in the upper 90s Tuesday onward, expected to climb back into the 100s next weekend, Andersen said. Thursday, with a projected high near 98 degrees, will likely be the coolest day of the week.

The hot temperatures are related to a high pressure system over the Four Corners region between New Mexico and Arizona, Andersen said, which is moving slightly westward.

Remember the winter’s record Sierra Nevada snowfall, and a hope that might have spared the Valley from a scorching summer?

“It’s kind of like the stock market,” Andersen said of the weather. “The previous outcomes don’t always foretell the future. But you know we are going to get hot.”

Valley cooling centers opened last week to help those looking for a place to escape the heat.

Andersen shared some reminders for staying safe in the heat: Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water, stay in cooler environments indoors if possible – including free Valley cooling centers – and don’t leave pets or people in enclosed vehicles, even for short amounts of time, which can turn deadly very quickly.

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Visitors prepare to be doused by a bucket filling with water at the top of the play structure in Ohana Bay at Island Waterpark on a hot afternoon in Fresno on Saturday, July 27, 2019. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Valley residents in the heat

To help those suffering from summer sun, Donna Mott, owner of Ooh De Lolli, regularly passes out free “cool-off pops” – just ice on a stick – in addition to flavored pops she sells at the the Vineyard Farmers Market at Blackstone and Shaw avenues.

“People put them on their back and their neck,” Mott said. “I’ve seen people put them under their armpit, in their bra. All those things.”

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Sisters Avery, left, 6, and Delilah Chapa, 4, of Fresno enjoy popsicles called ice pops from Ooh De Lolli at the Vineyard Farmers Market in Fresno on Saturday, July 27, 2019. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

She also sells ice pops for dogs made of tofu and peanut butter, frozen on pepperoni sticks.

It was already hot enough by late Saturday morning for Mott to periodically mist herself with a spray bottle. She talked about how much she admires farmers who have to work in more heat and direct sun.

Sitting a few booths away was farmer John Warner of Madera’s Whole Systems Agriculture, who was selling cut flowers plus vegetable and herb plants.

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Vendors and customers enjoy a bit of shade from the hot sunshine beneath the large arbor at the Vineyard Farmers Market in Fresno on Saturday, July 27, 2019. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

This has been a “tougher year than most” for his crops. He said some early spring heat that his plants weren’t ready for was especially harmful.

The harsh summer sun poses other challenges for farmers, Warner said, including over-irrigation – “the roots of the plants can’t breathe,” – heat-loving pests, and it being too hot for bees and other helpful pollinators to fly.

As for late Saturday morning in Fresno: “We’re starting to get the sweat running down your back a little bit. You start to feel the heat, but I haven’t heard any complaints.”

Carmen George is a features and news reporter for The Fresno Bee. Her stories have been recognized with Best of the West, George F. Gruner, and McClatchy President’s awards, and nine first or second place awards from the California News Publishers Association. She has a passion for sharing people’s stories to highlight issues and promote greater understanding.
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