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Heat wave to scorch Southern California, elevate wildfire threat

A heat wave building across Southern California will peak either Tuesday or Wednesday, and may persist with triple-digit temperatures through the week in the Inland Empire and parts of Los Angeles County.

Temperatures rose to the upper 80s in the San Gabriel Valley Sunday, and into the 90s in the San Fernando Valley and portions of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, National Weather Service Meteorologist Kathy Hoxsie said.  A high-pressure system building from the south will continue to drive up temperatures at the start of the week.

Humidity as low as 5% to 10% in parts of Southern California may accompany oppressively high temperatures,, forecasters said. That combination is enough to raise some concern about the risk of wildfires.

But the elevated fire risk probably won’t result in any preventative shutdown of the power grid, Southern California Edison spokeswoman Diane Castro said. That’s because the types of electrical malfunctions that can cause wildfires typically involve damage associated with high winds.

Temperatures should be about 20 degrees hotter than normal on Tuesday in inland areas, NWS Meteorologist Casey Oswant said. By Wednesday, parts of Los Angeles County may see highs above 105 degrees, and some places in the Inland Empire will be “knocking at 110,” Hoxsie said.

The heat wave won’t feel as intense in communities along the coast, Oswant said.  Temperatures might be five to eight degrees warmer in places like Huntington Beach or El Segundo Tuesday, but cities like Anaheim and Fullerton could see readings climb 15 to 20 degrees above seasonal averages. Forecastors predicted a high of 88 in Long Beach and 95 in Fullerton and Orange by Wednesday.

Extreme conditions may encourage more people to cool off at Southern California’s beaches this week, Oswant said. She encouraged anyone planning to visit the coast to be mindful of rip currents and other hazards.

Triple-digit highs could persist in the Inland Empire through Friday, Oswant said. But coastal areas could see relief as soon as Wednesday, thanks to an eddy developing offshore in the middle of the week that will blow in cool air from the Pacific. Its strength and duration will help determine how long the heat wave may last, and were uncertain in weather models over the weekend.

“Although it’s not going to be that windy, it will get very dry, particularly in the front half of the week,” Oswant said. “With the heat, it brings up the possibility of something igniting.”

Last year, extreme heat placed so much strain on the state’s electrical system that rolling blackouts were implemented by California Independent System Operator, which oversees the state’s power grid. No upcoming shutdowns were planned according to a CA ISO statement issued Friday, but officials were preparing to take steps to reduce demand.

Those might include the declaration of a Flex alert calling on people to avoid using large appliances during peak energy use hours between 4 and 9 p.m. Additional infrastructure maintenance has also been scheduled to take place between Tuesday and Friday.

Source: Orange County Register

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