IMAGE: BOY COOLS OFF
Justin Sullivan  /  Getty Images
Ten-year-old Ricky Whisman cools himself with a spray-bottle fan as outside temperatures reached 103 degrees Friday in Petaluma, Calif.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 6/21/2008 7:01:00 PM ET 2008-06-21T23:01:00

A blistering heat wave blanketing much of the California coast over the past week showed no signs of letting up Saturday as temperatures headed back toward triple digits.

Power was restored Saturday to almost all the 8,000 customers that were blacked out the day before when electrical demand skyrocketed because of the heat, said Terry Schneider, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Energy demand was expected to remain at peak levels into the weekend and the department had about 50 crews standing by to handle any overload problems, Schneider said.

"The system is under tremendous strain to meet the energy demand," he said.

Temperatures hit record highs up and down the state Friday, including 103 degrees at San Jose, 105 at Escondido, 106 at Burbank and 108 at San Luis Obispo.

The heat wave has been caused by northeasterly wind preventing sea breezes from penetrating a high-pressure system that has settled over the West.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promised to lend any state resources needed — from helping to set up cooling centers to responding to brush fires.

"I have directed my Office of Emergency Services to coordinate with state and local agencies and do everything we can to ensure personal safety for all Californians during high temperatures today through the weekend," Schwarzenegger said in a statement Friday.

Many areas in Northern California recorded temperatures in the high 90s with heat advisories in effect for Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties for Friday and Saturday.

The heat wave started earlier in the week, posing hazards for anyone who ventured outside.

Triple-digit highs spread from the desert — 118 at aptly named Thermal and 116 in Palm Springs — to the Los Angles area on Thursday, including a record 109 at Woodland Hills, topping the 1989 mark of 105, according to the National Weather Service. Records were also set Wednesday.

Higher fire danger
The hot air and dry brush also brought heightened wildfire risks throughout the region.

Firefighters and air crews Thursday battled a 50-acre brush fire after a car ran off the road and burst into flames 70 miles east of San Diego. A man was killed, according to the California Highway Patrol.

In Ventura County, northwest of Los Angeles, a 25-acre fire burning in brush in the city of Ventura was mostly contained.

"If you've never been on a hillside fighting a fire, then you don't know what hot is," county fire spokesman Bill Nash said.

At Ice Station Valencia, a rink in the broiling Santa Clarita Valley, hockey director Larry Bruyere, 55, said: "You don't mind working here on days like this."

Los Angeles County opened 42 daytime cooling centers for seniors and suggested people visit air-conditioned malls and libraries in the evenings. The National Weather Service warned people to take precautions for heat that could quickly kill children or animals left in cars, even if the windows were cracked open.

As people cranked up air conditioners, energy use in Los Angeles peaked at 5,854 megawatts Thursday, breaking records for the month of June, according to the city Department of Water and Power.

Tragic ordeal for elderly couple
The region began to warm at the start of the week, and authorities in San Bernardino County linked the heat to the death of 77-year-old Joyce Sanders on Monday near the California-Arizona line south of Lake Havasu, Ariz.

The Arizona woman appeared to have left her car in search of her 89-year-old husband, Virgil, on a day when temperatures reached 116 degrees in the Colorado River region. Investigators believe the woman died after falling on a hillside; the pair were found by a passer-by who stopped after seeing their empty car on the road.

It was unclear why Virgil Sanders left the car. He was taken to a Phoenix-area hospital in a coma and suffering second- and third-degree burns from the sun and ground contact, according to sheriff's Sgt. Tim Smith.

"There's no foul play suspected; it's just a tragedy, is all," Smith said.

The Associated Press and KNTV contributed to this report.

Video: Heat is on

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,