Widespread triple-digit temperatures baked the Southland Tuesday as a prolonged heat wave took hold, spurring fears of wildfire danger in the drought-stricken region.
The “dangerously hot” conditions are forecast to linger through Friday, with excessive heat warnings already in place across Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.
Afternoon highs were predicted to be between 95 to 109 degrees in valley areas, 90 to 108 in the mountains and foothills, and 105 to 112 degrees in the Antelope Valley, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures will be cooler along the coast, about 75 to 85 degrees.
Palm Springs reached 120 degrees Tuesday, the Weather Service reported in the evening. The temperature approached the city’s record-high for the month, which was 122 degrees set on June 25, 2017.
The all-time high in Palm Springs is 123 degrees, recorded on July 25, 1999.
A record was also broken in Anaheim, where temperatures reached 96 degrees. The previous record high of 95 was in 2018.
In L.A. County, Palmdale hit a new record high of 107 degrees at the Palmdale Airport. That broke the previous record of 105 set in 1966, according to the Weather Service.
During the early season heat wave, people should limit outdoor activities, especially when temperatures are warmest, and drink plenty of water. Forecasters also remind everyone to never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles.
The heat wave may even lead state officials to call for a Flex Alert Wednesday and Thursday, the Associated Press reported.
In addition to the heat, winds could also be problematic in southern Santa Barbara County, where a red flag warning is in effect through 6 a.m. Wednesday.
Forecasters are warning of dangerous sundowner winds, which have helped fuel some of the county’s fiercest and most destructive wildfires in recent memory.
The combination of gusty winds, relative humidity in the single digits and unseasonably dry fuels has prompted warnings of critical fire conditions in the southwest part of the state, according to the weather service. Potential impacts of a blaze igniting include extreme fire behavior and potential rapid spread.
“Avoid all activities that could cause a spark,” NWS warned.
Adding to the danger are the extreme drought conditions that have gripped much of the southwestern U.S. in the days before summer, leaving the region severely parched.
In California, water levels at the state’s 1,500 reservoirs are averaging 50% lower than they’re supposed to be at this point in the year, the Associated Press reported.
The state has also experienced a 26% growth in brush fire activity compared to 2020, with a 58% spike in acres burned as the state continues to be mired in its second consecutive dry year.
“When you start talking about the vegetation, about how dry things are, we’re in drought conditions and it’s just June, we haven’t even gotten to the months where the Santa Ana’s are going to kick in, and winds are going to be pushing some of these dry conditions up the hillside,” Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Ron Haralson said.
But, he added, firefighters are prepared to meet such challenges.
“It’s concerning but at the same time we’re prepared for it and we understand that it’s important that we get a quick strike and a quick jump on some of these fires,” Haralson said.