LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — California is sweltering under a dangerous heat wave Labor Day weekend that was spreading triple-digit temperatures over much of the state, raising concerns about power outages and the spread of the coronavirus as crowds packed beaches and mountains for relief.
The California Independent System Operator (ISO) declared a “Stage 2” power emergency late Saturday, warning that rotating power outages were possible. A Stage 2 power emergency means the ISO has taken all mitigating actions but can no longer provide its expected energy requirements.
High temperatures were anticipated in California through the Labor Day weekend, raising the risk of wildfires and rolling blackouts.
Death Valley hit a record-high temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit Saturday, eclipsing the previous record of 119 Fahrenheit set in 2017, according to the National Weather Service.
One death was reported because of the heat. Malibu Search and Rescue tweeted that a hiker died of the heat while on a trail in the Santa Monica Mountains. Because of the heat, all hiking trails in the mountains will be closed through Labor Day, the agency said.
“PLEASE DO NOT #HIKE IN THIS #HEATWAVE,” Malibu Search and Rescue tweeted.
California Governor Gavin Newsom had declared a state of emergency on Friday “to free up additional energy capacity amid extreme temperatures across California.” The proclamation that allows power plants to operate beyond normal limits through the three-day holiday weekend.
The National Weather Service forecast a heat wave carrying “rare, dangerous and very possibly deadly” temperatures across Southern California for the holiday weekend.
The weather service predicted “brutally hot” temperatures through Monday as a high pressure system perches over the Western United States.
Downtown Los Angeles reached 110 degrees on Saturday. Temperatures in inland parts of the San Francisco Bay Area were soaring to the low 100s.
State officials urged Californians to turn off unnecessary appliances and lights to help avoid blackouts from an overwhelmed power grid.
Authorities asked power generators to delay any maintenance until after the weekend to prevent blackouts like the two nights of rolling outages in mid-August as residents cranked up their air conditioning.
Officials also urged residents to follow distancing and mask requirements when they hit recreational areas.
Numerous parking lots to San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles County beaches closed after they filled to capacity and lifeguards reported seeing large crowds.
“Very busy conditions. The beaches are packed wall to wall,” Orange County Lifeguards Capt. Brad Herzog said.
“Holiday weekends are very busy at our beaches. But we’re probably a notch or two busier because of the heat wave,” he said.
Health authorities warned that beaches could be closed if they become too crowded.
The heat, coupled with a forecast of possible dry, gusty winds, made for dangerous weekend fire weather, at a time when nearly 13,000 firefighters already are battling to contain nearly two dozen major fires around California.
A wildfire that broke out near Shaver Lake in the Sierra National Forest has prompted evacuation orders Saturday as authorities urged people seeking relief from the heat wave to stay away from the popular lake. In San Bernardino County, a fast-moving fire in the foothills of Yucaipa forced the evacuation of Oak Glen, a farm community that just opened its apple-picking season this weekend.
Cities and counties around the state opened cooling centers in public buildings for those without air conditioning. Los Angeles County was providing close to 50 centers in libraries, community centers and even a museum in the L.A. suburb of Gardena.
Others may seek to beat the heat by hitting shopping malls, which were allowed to reopen this week in seven San Francisco Bay Area counties that have met conditions for easing coronavirus business restrictions.
The homeless population wasn’t forgotten. Rev. Andy Bales, president and CEO of Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles, said he told staff to hand out “the coldest of cold water bottles” to those coming by for to-go lunches over the weekend.
“And I said if anyone comes to the door overheated and in peril, welcome them in,” he said. “We do have an air-conditioned chapel.”
Volunteers with the CHAM Deliverance Ministry in San Jose planned to deliver bottled water and sports drinks to homeless people in Silicon Valley.
“When it’s 105 degrees and you’re living in a creek bed in a tent, it’s a lot of health issues out there. It’s a formula for disaster,” pastor and founder Scott Wagers said.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.