An intense multi-day heatwave shifted into high gear on Friday, causing power outages across California as the state's power grid was overwhelmed by energy demands.
A level 3 emergency alarm was reported around 6:30 p.m. from the California independent system operator who operates the state's electrical grid. The agency has not reported a nationwide emergency of this nature since 2001.
According to a blackout tracker, more than 300,000 customers in Northern and Southern California were without power at certain points on Friday night. By 10 p.m. Power had been restored across the country.
Temperatures for some parts of the state are expected to be in the triple digits by next week.
Across the country, around 150 million people will be exposed to temperatures above 90 degrees in the next week, and 50 million of them are forecasting temperatures above 100 degrees.
More than 80 million people were exposed to heat warnings from the central and southern plains and almost the entire west coast on Friday. The myriad of heat warnings on the map included heat warnings, excessive heat clocks, and excessive heat warnings, all issued by the National Weather Service.
Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle are some of the cities that have heat warnings.
High temperatures of 100 to 107 degrees and heat index values of 105 to 115 degrees were forecast for the plains. This heat is expected to continue through Sunday with cooler temperatures expected next week.
The west has an excessive heat warning for parts of Arizona, California, and Nevada through Wednesday, with high temperatures of 110 to 125 degrees expected.
Two factors that make this heat event particularly dangerous are the long duration until the next week and the high humidity.
Temperatures in the upper 90s and 100s could last for the next 10 days. Often it is not just the hot temperature that counts in a single day, but how many consecutive days the temperatures remain at dangerous levels.
"The longevity of the heat is more important than the record breaking temperatures," said National Weather Service meteorologist Trevor Boucher.
When talking about the West, the heat is often referred to as "dry heat". This time around, however, the tropical moisture pouring into the region from Hurricane Elida (dispersed since then) will make conditions more sultry than usual and more dangerous. Dampness makes it harder for the body to cool down and keeps the nights warmer than usual, which is supposed to be the recovery period for the body to cool off.
If the nights stay hot, the risk of heat-related illness increases during the day.
"When people are trying to get out of 90 degree temperatures, they are unlikely to be forced to. Even in the shade, you can expect temperatures well in excess of 100, and these are the types of situations that can lead to heat call build-up and hospital visits, "Boucher said.
By the time the heat event is over, more than 100 daily record highs could fall. Cities expected to break new records include Dallas, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Sacramento.
Particularly noteworthy are the monthly heat records. California's Death Valley is projected to be above 125 degrees from Sunday through Tuesday, and when it does, it will be the hottest temperatures recorded this late in the season.
When Phoenix hits 117 it is August's hottest temperature ever.
This heat is extremely dangerous for vulnerable populations, especially in cities where the urban heat island effect – where the temperature of a city is much warmer than nearby rural areas – combined with less access to air conditioning, increases the risk of heat sickness .
Boucher stressed the importance of public cooling stations in helping people get out of the heat and how smart their home is about energy usage, as people will likely be running their air conditioning day and night.
“The question we often get is, 'You know it's summer. Why do we worry about it getting hot? That's normal.' Well, that kind of warmth, that amount of warmth for so long is not normal, "said Boucher.
Alexander Gershunov, a research meteorologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego, said that heat waves of this type are becoming more common because of climate change.
"These large and long-lasting heat waves are usually caused by a dome of high-pressure buildings overhead. This is particularly high-pressure and is very extensive in that it dominates the entire southwestern United States," said Gershunov. "So these patterns are happening, and when they happen during the warmest summer temperatures in late July and early August, they can cause severe heat waves."
The heat wave will upset the Covid-19 pandemic – and the pandemic will make the situation worse for those exposed to the heat as well. Indoor cooling centers, for example, could potentially contribute to the spread of the coronavirus when large crowds gather. People who have lost their jobs can avoid running their air conditioners for fear that they will not be able to afford their electricity bills. And heat waves like the coronavirus both affect the airways.
"With COVID-19 and other layered crises, an additional extreme weather crisis is basically just adding to the stress people are already feeling," Gershunov said.
Climate change increases the frequency, duration and intensity of such heat waves, especially in the west. Las Vegas is the fastest warming city in the United States. Phoenix, Tucson, and El Paso are also high on the list.
Phoenix has already broken the record for the number of days at 110 degrees or higher this year. When the city hits 115 degrees on Friday, a new record is also set for the number of days (8) with a high of 115 or more. Phoenix currently reaches 110+ degrees twice as often as it did in the 1950s.
And the heat undoubtedly increases the risk of fire in the west.
On Friday there were red flag warnings for parts of Wyoming, Oregon and Washington, including Portland.
Very hot temperatures in combination with low humidity and gusts of wind of up to 60 km / h made the conditions favorable for a fire to ignite and for it to spread quickly.
While there were no red flag warnings for Southern California, the Lake Fire in Los Angeles County continued to burn. As of Friday morning, that fire covered 11,000 acres and was 12 percent contained.
In Colorado, the Pine Gulf Fire north of Grand Junction grew to 73,381 acres, making it the fourth largest fire in Colorado history.
The intense heat rising in the west follows the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), which on Thursday released its monthly July climate report noting that July 2020 will be the second warmest July on the planet and the hottest No. 1 was registered for the northern hemisphere. The Arctic sea ice was also found to hit record lows.
2020 will be one of the hottest years of all time worldwide.