SACRAMENTO, Calif. – As a blistering and historic heat wave reaches its fifth day in the West, residents are perhaps longing for the weekend like no other as cooler weather is in the offing.
Until then, it's another 48 hours sitting under Mother Nature's "broil" setting.
Much like they have been since Labor Day weekend, over 45 million people remain under heat alerts Thursday, with a vast majority of those under Excessive Heat Warnings in California and southern Nevada as temperatures zoom well past 100 degrees.
In an example of the absurdity of the heat wave, Sacramento was 9 degrees cooler Wednesday than Tuesday thanks to a trickle of ocean breeze – and still managed to reach 107, which broke the daily record high by 2 degrees. The 116 degrees reached Tuesday broke its all-time record high by 2 degrees, which had just been matched on Monday. Sacramento had only reached 114 degrees once before – in 1925.
But that breeze has faded away again for Thursday and will allow temperatures to warm over 110 again, with 108 forecast in Fresno and even Los Angeles closing in on triple digits again.
The heat continues to make conditions miserable for firefighters battling several blazes across the state.
According to California's fire authority, CAL Fire, there are 11 active wildfires burning in the state consuming more than 30,000 acres of land. Several firefighters have been hospitalized for heat-related illnesses while out on the front lines.
As air conditioners whirring away in a battle to keep the heat manageable on the inside, California's power grid continues to strain under unprecedented demand. The state set an all-time record for power demand on Tuesday at just over 52,000 megawatts and was expected to reach over 51,000 Thursday, which would have been a new record if not for the previous days. The state had only reached 50,000 megawatts of demand twice before since 1998.
But while the power grid has figuratively bent, it has not broken. Urgent calls for Californians to conserve energy amid warnings of potential rolling blackouts have worked so far, and the state has made it through each day of the heat wave without requiring the blackouts.
Yet the demand challenges persist Thursday and will likely again Friday. The state has yet again called for Flex Alerts urging residents to conserve energy, especially between peak demand periods of 4 to 9 p.m. That includes refraining from using heavy appliances, shutting off all unnecessary lighting and even holding off charging electric vehicles.
10 straight days of record heat in Salt Lake City
While inland California has taken the brunt of the heat, searing temperatures have been spread across much of the inland West.
When residents in Salt Lake City look back on their record books in September, it will look rather strange with every record at the start of the month set in 2022.
Wednesday marked 10 consecutive days of setting a daily high-temperature record – all over 100 degrees – and it has saved the biggest for last so far, reaching 107 on Wednesday, which tied its all-time record high of 107 set four times before, including earlier this summer on July 17. The 107 broke its daily high Wednesday by a whopping 8 degrees.
More heat on Friday in the West, then relief
The intense heat will linger for one more day Friday, making this historic heat wave nearly a week long. High temperatures will be on par with Thursday's levels, maybe shedding a degree or two.
But it will take a visit from an opposite end of Mother Nature's spectrum – the remnants of a hurricane – to finally douse these infernal temperatures.
As clouds and moisture move in from the fringes of Hurricane Kay this weekend, temperatures will drop away from record territory and back into the more manageable 90s.
The long-range forecasts get even better for next week with familiar sunshine returning to the West but highs in the interior dropping as low as the mid-80s.