BY ANTONIE BOESSENKOOL Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
It's hot, and it's going to get hotter in Bakersfield before it cools down.
Thursday's temperature reached 105 degrees, but that was expected to creep up to 109 degrees on Friday and Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures aren't expected to drop back down below 100 degrees until next week Wednesday, said Gary Sanger of the National Weather Service.
Bakersfield's spray parks will open an hour earlier, at 11 a.m., starting on Friday and until Aug. 17. Spray parks are located at:
Beale Park, at 500 Oleander St.
Greystone Park, at 5709 Mountain Vista Drive
Jastro Park, at 2900 Truxtun Ave.
Jefferson Park, at 801 Bernard St.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, at 1000 S. Owens St.
Planz Park, at 1601 Planz Road
Saunders Park, at 3300 Palm St.
Wayside Park, at 1200 Ming Ave.
"We just have high pressure over the southwestern United States, and it's just keeping it hot," Sanger said. The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning from noon on Friday to 11 p.m. on Sunday, he said.
Kern County opens its 13 cooling centers depending on temperature predictions for the next day. It looks like the centers will be continuously open for the next several days at least, said Bob Lerude, the county's parks director.
"Usually we get a hot spell like this, more of an extreme heat, one week a year, and this is really the one week," Lerude said.
The cooling centers are open from 1 to 8 p.m. and are spread throughout the county, in Bakersfield, Arvin, Taft, Wasco and several other places. The county planned to have them open on Friday. They're free, with water and snacks, Lerude said.
For a list of cooling centers, go to www.co.kern.ca.us/pio/coolingcenters.asp or call the Parks and Recreation Department at 868-7000.
"It's just a place to get out of the heat and where they don't have to run their own air conditioners," he said.
The county opens the cooling centers in the San Joaquin and Kern River valleys when temperatures are forecast to be 105 degrees or higher, in the desert areas when temperatures are forecast to be 108 degrees or higher and in Frazier Park when temperatures are forecast to be 95 degrees or higher.
Also, PG&E is sponsoring bus passes for people to go to the cooling centers. Residents can contact Kern County Aging and Adult Services for bus passes, Lerude said.
To help residents deal with the broiling conditions, the city of Bakersfield will open its eight spray parks one hour earlier every day, at 11 a.m., starting on Friday until Aug. 17. The spray parks close at 7 p.m.
"With the high heat, we thought that it's the least we could do to extend the hours," said Bakersfield Recreation and Parks Director Dianne Hoover. "It's just been getting hot early."
People, both kids and adults, are already lined up when the spray parks open at noon, and those crowds will likely continue over the coming week and weekend, Hoover said.
"It's just going to be so hot, and we wanted to do something to help people cool off," she said.
Some of the city's four pools will close soon in line with the end of the season, Hoover said. Friday is the last open day for the pools at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park and Jefferson Park, she said. McMurtrey and Silver Creek pools will be open a little longer: McMurtrey until Aug. 19 and the following two weekends and Silver Creek until Aug. 17. Both have open swim times for the public in the afternoons.
Also Thursday, the managers of California's electrical grid called on residents to conserve power across the state because of the heat wave.
The California Independent System Operator issued a "Flex Alert" for Friday through Sunday, asking people to conserve energy in the afternoons, when air conditioners drive energy consumption.
The alert asks people to set their thermostats to 78 degrees or higher and turn off the thermostat when they're away from home and use major appliances in the morning or late evening only.
Valleys and inland areas have been sweltering in triple-digit highs all week under the influence of strong high pressure over the southwestern U.S. Forecasters say the heat combined with rising humidity will continue through the weekend.
The "Flex Alert" is intended to prevent operating reserves from falling to the point that a Stage 1 Emergency occurs.
Sanger of the National Weather Service gave the usual advice: stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, drink plenty of water and don't leave kids and pets in cars, even with the windows cracked. But he also advised people to check on their neighbors, especially elderly ones.
"Make sure that they're OK, and if they need to get to a cooling center or your air conditioning, go and get them," Sanger said. "Be a good neighbor."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.