Record heat wave bearing down on Western US (with forecast video)

Sun on the horizon behind a tractor-trailer on a desert road.

The upcoming Labor Day weekend could be the hottest on record for several major metropolitan areas in the western U.S.

SONAR Critical Events: Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, 8 a.m. EDT; Excessive heat risk areas

A strong ridge of high pressure from the ground to the upper atmosphere will begin spreading across the region Friday. This is when the dangerous heat wave will start.

Sinking air, very low humidity and abundant sunshine will allow temperatures to quickly rise into the triple digits, hitting 110 to 125 degrees in valleys and deserts. Coastal communities will feel the heat, too, reaching the 90s to lower 100s. These temperatures are 10 to 20 degrees above normal for early September and can quickly lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke if people spend too much time outdoors. Drivers who will be home for the holiday should plan indoor activities with their families.

Not only could daily record highs be set this weekend, but the National Weather Service (NWS) told FreightWaves that “there is a possibility of all-time records on Sunday in many locations” of the Los Angeles area.

These are some of the all-time records in jeopardy of being broken:

• Burbank (BUR) 114
• Palmdale (PMD) 113
• Long Beach (LGB) 111
• Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) 110
• Santa Barbara (SBA) 109

The heat wave will spread across the following metropolitan areas and spots in between: Phoenix, Yuma and Tucson, Arizona; Las Vegas; and San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento, California. The NWS has issued excessive heat watches and warnings for these cities.

In some areas, the extreme heat may degrade the air quality, making outdoor events even more risky for people with respiratory problems. This would be especially true where wildfires continue to burn.

This is happening just weeks after a power shortage in California triggered the first rolling blackouts there in 20 years. The reliability of the state’s grid could be tested again over the next several days.

In response, California’s grid operator has ordered transmission line operators and power plants to postpone any work that would take their assets offline on Saturday and Sunday. This will hopefully ensure adequate power supplies during the weekend.

“With the fires and the wear and tear on units, this weekend could be ugly,” Campbell Faulkner, senior vice president and chief data analyst at OTC Global Holdings, told Bloomberg News. “It’s just a really difficult spot for California.”

New wildfires could easily start in the dry heat. Along with the sizzling temperatures, breezy conditions may develop in some areas. This could fan the flames, making it more difficult for crews to contain the wildfires.

Due to disruptions to the freight market from Hurricane Laura, FreightWaves is providing free access to key features of SONAR through Friday, Sept. 4. Click here to learn more.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.