Execessive heat prompts Flex Alert, fire warnings, schools to let out early

- With most of the Bay Area under an excessive heat advisory, extra safety precautions are in place for Friday and throughout the holiday weekend.

School districts including those in Orinda, Novato and Los Gatos are letting out students early Friday because of the heat. The San Ramon Unified District canceled sports over the weekend. The Harvest Wine Celebration in Livermore was canceled because of the heat.

As the sun set Thursday evening, the fountains at Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park in downtown San Jose was filled with people looking for some relief after another scorcher.

“Oh my God,” said Guadalupe Cruz of San Jose. “It's super hot. I think it was maybe noon and it was already 100.”

Come Friday, the fountains and other places to cool down could be even busier. Friday is said to be the hottest day of this extreme heat wave. 

The National Weather Service said the high pressure system spawning the heat would continue dominating the West into next week. The only question was where it would be dangerously hot and where it would just be hot.

The operator of the state's power grid predicted an all-time record electrical demand of 50,950 megawatts on Friday and issued a statewide Flex Alert -- a call for voluntary electricity conservation -- from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday.

The California Independent System Operator Corp. said that "all available resources are on line and ready to respond."

The current all-time record demand was 50,270 megawatts, set on July 24, 2006.

Forecasts show the ridge of high pressure expanding over Northern California, bringing record or near-record temperatures, the San Francisco National Weather Service office said.

Temperatures exceeding 110 will be possible in interior valley areas east of San Francisco Bay on Friday and Saturday afternoon. Among high numbers shown by various models, Livermore could range from 111 to 116 degrees. So far this year, Livermore has had 14 days of 100 degrees or hotter, the National Weather Service said, compared to just one day in San Jose.

"Considering that 115 is the all-time record high at that spot (dating back to 1950), being that close and potentially breaking the record is notable. Even spots closer to San Francisco Bay will see hot conditions," the weather service wrote.

In preparation for the coming heat, several dozen emergency Red Cross workers who had planned to fly to Texas to help with flood relief were told to remain in the Bay Area, said Cynthia Shaw, spokeswoman for the Northern California chapter of the American Red Cross. If the heat wave triggers wildfires, she said, they will be needed to staff shelters here. A high fire risk warning was issued for residents living in the Berkeley Hills, the weather service warned.

“I’m dreading it because it's so hot,” said Cruz. “I’m trying to keep the kids cool. It's hard.”

The safety of children, elderly, and athletes at risk for heat-related illnesses is paramount. Temperatures could soar past 110 degrees inland. Some schools are dismissing students early Friday.

“I was kind of surprised but that's good for the welfare of the kids because these children are not used to the heat,” said Sylvia Villa of Los Gatos.

“There’s not going to be a lot of learning going on with that kind of heat so you might as well give kids the option to go home,” said Kristine Emerick of Los Gatos.

Loma Prieta Unified School District in Los Gatos is letting children out at 12:30 p.m. before lunch. The superintendent said the elementary school does not have air conditioning and is prone to power outages. Schools in Novato and Orinda are also having shorter days.

“If you are in class you are trying to do math, it gets really hot and it's frustrating if you don't understand something,” said Fourth Grader Sarah Emerick.

Health officials are urging people seek shade and drink plenty of water.

“During the time of day when it's quite hot so 10 a.m to 4 p.m. in that's when it's especially important to be careful,” said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody.

With the power demand expected to surge, the state's independent system operator issuing a FLEX alert urging people to conserve energy. PG&E said it will also have extra crews to respond to power outages.

Lake Cunningham Skate Park in San Jose will be closed Friday because of the heat wave. BBQs will not be allowed at Alum Rock Park in San Jose because of high fire danger. Several cooling centers are open throughout the Bay Area including all the community centers in San Jose.

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