East Bay swelters in heat wave; cooler temperatures on the way

McElroy Fountain in North Oakland was almost dry this week due to drought restrictions. Photo by Brittany Murphy

McElroy Fountain in North Oakland was almost dry this week due to drought restrictions. Photo by Brittany Murphy

Oakland and Richmond residents sweltered Thursday through another unseasonably hot day, but finally started to feel some relief as temperatures started to cool off.

The National Weather Service said daytime highs would be in the low 80s for communities close to the bay on Thursday, rising to a high of 104 in some inland areas such as Dublin and Pleasanton.

That followed four days of heat advisories and temperatures in the 90s by the bayshore. Despite the cooling trend, the weather service said persistent high pressure over the Bay Area most likely will keep temperatures higher than normal across much of the region until the weekend. Daytime highs this time of year usually average about mid- to low-70s in Richmond and Oakland.

Diana Henderson, a forecaster with the weather service at its regional office in Monterey, said the Bay Area is usually protected from extreme heat by its proximity to the ocean.

“High pressure is blocking the marine layer from coming in, which is the natural air conditioner for the Bay area,” she said.

Heat waves are especially hard on the elderly and homeless people. The Bay Area Rescue Mission, which operates an emergency shelter in Richmond, is keeping extra water and ice on hand. “We’re doing our best to keep people cooled down,” staff member Jake Romero said.

Piedmont Gardens, a retirement community in Oakland, was installing new air conditioners this week and urging its residents to stay inside. The facility is also encouraging its residents to keep their outdoor activities confined to the early morning hours or late evening.

Generations of city kids–and adults, too, when the heat gets bad enough–have relied on public fountains to cool off. Now, landmark fountains in Alameda and Contra Costa counties are turned off because of drought restrictions.

McElroy Fountain in Lake Merritt was reduced to residual water puddles this week. Youngsters had to find other ways to escape the heat.

“I like to wear light clothes and keep cool with water guns,” Deandre Jordan, 17, a Berkeley High School junior, said Wednesday afternoon. His friend Farida Salifou, 16, said she was keeping things light and cool after class by “water ballooning my teacher.”

She added that her teacher “had a great sense of humor” and didn’t mind the joke.

Amber Lee, 16, fanned herself with a school folder while waiting to order an iced coffee at a Starbucks in downtown Berkeley. “I’m just staying out of that sun. It’s way too hot out there” she said.

Officials at the Alameda County Department of Health said it’s important to drink plenty of water, forego strenuous activities, and never leave children, elderly folks or pets unattended in enclosed vehicles, even for a short time. Cooling centers are also available throughout the East Bay. Dial 211 in your local area for more information.

Despite all the sweating this week, relief was in sight Thursday. Forecasters expect cooler weather this weekend and said next week should be back to normal.

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