‘It is too scorching’: Los Angeles melts underneath worst heatwave of yr Local weather Disaster within the American West
Ahen Los Angeles grappled with a brutal heatwave, many streets were quiet as residents heeded official warnings to shelter in their air-conditioned homes. Public libraries turned into refrigeration centers, and aid groups made frozen water bottles to help those without shelter. Food vendors were still on the streets, although they described heat that can reach 115F (46C) in a muggy truck.
Heading into a holiday weekend, Southern California is battling the hottest weather of the year with no relief in sight. Even in a city known for its heat, triple-digit temperatures are breaking records in some cities around Los Angeles, and advocates fear the extremes are stretching for workers and others forced to stay outside during the hottest hours of the day be, will prove deadly.
Israel Contreras, 45, pushed an ice cream truck down a mostly empty sidewalk in Filipinotown and stopped under the shade of a tree. “It’s too hot,” he said. His shirt was soaked with sweat, but despite the lack of people outside, business wasn’t too bad, he said. Children were waiting in their houses, and when they heard him, they came out for refreshment.
A Los Angeles vendor prepares a frozen confection during a heatwave in California. Photo: Caroline Brehman/EPA
California’s extreme heat has raised concerns on multiple fronts: as firefighters battling blazes succumbed to heat stroke, as officials feared the state’s power grid could be overloaded, and as advocates warned that those without home or means are hardest would be affected.
Despite emergency measures taken by Gov. Gavin Newsom, including additional generators to produce more power, the heatwave was expected to strain California’s power grid to the breaking point. In a bid to stave off power outages, officials urged residents to try to reduce their energy use and avoid using large appliances during early evening rush hours, when people normally return home and turn on their air conditioners.
Soaring temperatures have alarmed parents and school officials, who spoke of public schools lacking enough greenery or shade for kids to play outside safely. Playground asphalt can reach 145F during extreme heat waves, the Los Angeles Times reported. In San Diego, public high school students described difficulty concentrating in classrooms without working air conditioning, the Union-Tribune reported.
A woman cools off with water from a fire hydrant in the Skid Row area. The city’s large homeless population is particularly at risk. Photo: Jae C Hong/AP
Workers who must be outside in the heat and tens of thousands of people in Los Angeles who are homeless are at particular risk of heat-related illness and death, advocates warned.
“A lot of homeless people are going to die because they’re out here and they don’t have proper cold water and proper shade,” said Theo Henderson, who hosts a podcast called We the Unhoused. Henderson urged residents who have shelters to freeze bottled water and distribute it to their homeless neighbors throughout the weekend.
Although Los Angeles has more than opened up 150 public cooling centers in response to the heat emergency, Henderson said, the number of centers is simply “insufficient” for a region where more than 60,000 people are estimated to be homeless.
As many as 3,900 deaths across California in the past decade were likely caused by excessive heat, a 2021 analysis by the Los Angeles Times found, with the state’s official statistics for heat deaths dramatically underestimating the number of deaths, leaving disproportionately poor and ill Affects people, old or very young. Analysis found that Black California residents were more likely to die from the heat than any other racial group.
In historic Filipinotown, mutual aid groups announced Friday they would distribute hundreds of gallons of cold water to anyone who wanted to distribute it to their homeless neighbors. Phillip Kim helped other young activists load water bottles into a car, where they took them to people living on the streets of Little Tokyo, he said.
“We’re not going to do a means test,” quipped Albert Corado, another local activist. Anyone who wanted water could take it, no questions asked.
A woman walks with an umbrella in Los Angeles. Residents have been told to stay hydrated and seek shade. Photo: Jae C Hong/AP
On Tuesday, garment workers and some of California’s Democratic congressmen held a press conference calling for more federal protections from extreme heat for workers like delivery drivers and farm workers.
The Los Angeles County Library System announced it would open two dozen emergency refrigeration centers across the city on Sunday and Monday that “will be staffed with library staff who have agreed to work over the holiday weekend,” library spokeswoman Jessica Lee said Friday . But advocates like Henderson fear even those efforts will not be enough, and urged the city to do more to let its most vulnerable residents know where to find shelter.
California has taken a more proactive approach than most to addressing the climate crisis, but many say the extreme heatwave shows how much more aggressive action is needed.
Jane Fonda, the Hollywood actress who has been arrested multiple times during climate protests in Washington, noted that California lawmakers on Wednesday rejected a bill that would have set a more ambitious target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to the current target of a 40% reduction.
On Thursday morning, in the searing, nearly deserted streets in front of Los Angeles City Hall, Fonda held a press conference to highlight her new climate change-focused political action committee, which is backing a slew of climate-leaning city-level candidates in Los Angeles.
“We need to talk about mitigation and long-term solutions at the same time,” Fonda said. “We are experiencing the effects of climate change.”
Temperatures are predicted to match or break previous records in some areas. Photo: Caroline Brehman/EPA