Around 43 million Americans are under an excessive heat watch and have been told to stay indoors as record-high temperatures are expected to hit the West Coast for Labor Day weekend.
Forecasters warned that a dangerous heat wave is headed for much of California, southern Nevada and western Arizona over the next three days, with temperatures soaring to up to 120 degrees.
California is bracing for what could be one of its hottest days in history, at a time when the Golden State is already under the grip of dozens of mammoth wildfires which have so far destroyed more than 1.5 million acres.
Fears are mounting that respite from the intense heat will be hard to come by as major utilities warn increased energy demand for much-needed air con units will push the power grid to the brink.
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Thursday in efforts to conserve the state’s energy capacity and prevent a repeat of the power outages seen last month when an August heatwave caused rolling blackouts across thousands of homes.
The National Weather Service issued excessive heat warnings for much of the Southwest including Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California.
Sweltering temperatures are forecast to be 20 to 25 degrees higher than normal, with several areas likely to record their hottest days ever.
The heat watches are forecast to start in the valleys and mountains Friday before reaching coastal areas Saturday, according to NWS.
Los Angeles is forecast to be one of the hardest-hit regions, with temperatures soaring as high as 120 degrees Sunday, while Phoenix and Las Vegas could see highs of around 117.
Hopes of temperatures cooling as night falls are limited, with overnight lows still expected to be in the 70s and 80s in LA.
UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain told CNBC: ‘I am seriously concerned about this heatwave throughout California.
‘All-time record highs are plausible in Central Valley [and] across parts of SoCal. Over a million acres are actively burning across NorCal, and we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.’
NWS LA warned residents that ‘all daytime outdoor activities should be limited or canceled’ as fears grow that a lack of respite from the heat will cost lives.
It also warned of ‘extreme stress on our power infrastructure [which] may lead to power outages.’
The California Independent System Operator, which operates California’s power supply, has urged residents to conserve electricity from 3pm to 9pm PST each day over the three-day weekend to help prevent the likelihood of rolling blackouts.
It is also asking utilities to postpone maintenance on generating stations so all available power supplies are at the ready.
The high temperatures spark concerns about the threat of yet more wildfires, while the state continues to be ravaged by some of the biggest in its history and emergency crews are still grappling to bring them under control.
Wildfires spread across California last month as the state suffered an intense heatwave – a heatwave that was less dangerous than the one experts say is on its way.
More than 875 wildfires ripped through the state sending thousands of residents fleeing their homes before they were destroyed.
Two of the wildfires grew to become the second and third largest in the state’s history with the LNU Lightning Complex Fire so far burning more than 375,000 acres and the SCU 391,000 acres.
The National Guard was activated to help bring the blazes under control and firefighters flew in from Australia and other states as Governor Newsom pleaded for more resources.