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November 29, 2022

Record temperatures take a toll on South Valley

Heat wave disrupts daily life throughout South Bay

The historic heat wave that has gripped most of California this week has resulted in broken temperature records, prompted cities and counties to open public “cooling centers” for the vulnerable, limited outdoor school activities—and might have even damaged a stretch of highly traveled asphalt along many commuters’ daily route.

About 3am Sept. 6, the California Department of Transportation’s maintenance crew responded to reports of the roadway buckling on Highway 101 just north of Highway 156 in San Benito County, according to Caltrans spokesperson Alexa Bertola. Crews responded to make repairs and control traffic, resulting in the closure of two of three freeway lanes until the evening.

“We have our engineering staff and contractor staff on scene to determine the cause and repairs are being made at this moment,” Bertola said just before noon Sept. 6.

Bertola added that Caltrans staff don’t know for certain that the damage was caused by the heat, but it “seems likely it is extreme temperature related.”

Weather and health experts, along with public officials, began warning about the current heat wave last week as the forecast for Labor Day weekend had temperatures exceeding 100 degrees. Weather advisories have been extended daily since then, with current forecasts from the National Weather Service now saying the heat won’t let up until this weekend.

In Morgan Hill, the projected high for Sept. 8 is 103 degrees, which is forecast to drop to 97 by Friday, according to the National Weather Service website. Gilroy’s Sept. 8 high is forecast at 104, dropping to 98 on Friday. In Hollister, the projected high for both Sept. 8 and 9 is in the triple digits.

An “excessive heat warning” remains in effect in the region through at least Sept. 8, according to the NWS.

On Sept. 5, 11 cities in the Bay Area set record high temperatures, according to the NWS. That includes Gilroy, which recorded a high of 112—tying the city’s record for Sept. 5 set in 2017 and 2020.

The forecasts led PG&E to issue “flex alerts” throughout northern California, asking customers to voluntarily conserve electricity during peak hours to take strain off the power grid. Gilroy, Morgan Hill and Hollister opened their public libraries, recreation centers and other community centers to members of the public needing to take refuge in an air-conditioned space.

Earlier this week, power outages leaving hundreds of customers without electricity for hours made it even more difficult to get comfortable. An outage in east Morgan Hill on Sept. 5 affected more than 900 houses and businesses, according to PG&E. The outage started about 4pm and power was restored several hours later.

An outage reported about 6pm Sept. 5 in San Juan Bautista affected 273 customers in San Benito County, according to PG&E’s website. Electricity for those customers wasn’t restored until after 9pm.

Students returning to Morgan Hill schools after the holiday weekend were advised of some slight changes to their daily schedules this week to accommodate the heat. Morgan Hill Unified School District sent out a notice to families on Sept. 6, stating that outdoor activities at the schools will be limited, and recess and lunch would stay indoors during the heat wave.

“Teachers will encourage frequent water breaks, and we advise continuing to send your child with a reusable water bottle to refill throughout the day,” says the Sept. 6 notice from MHUSD to parents. “All sports practices will be moved to earlier in the morning, later in the day, indoors if possible, or canceled.”

As of Sept. 7, Sobrato High School has rescheduled a field hockey and girls golf match due to the heat this week. Live Oak High School has rescheduled two field hockey matches, a girls volleyball match, a girls golf match and a cross country meet for this week. 

Michael Moore
Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.

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