‘It’s too hot’: Los Angeles is melting under the worst heat wave of the year | Climate crisis in the American west

AAs Los Angeles struggled with a relentless heat wave, many streets fell silent as residents followed official warnings to take shelter in their air-conditioned homes. Public libraries turned into cooling centers and mutual aid groups prepared frozen water bottles to help out-of-home residents. Food vendors were still on the streets despite describing heat that can reach 115F (46C) in a sweltering truck.

Heading into a holiday weekend, Southern California struggles with the hottest weather of the year, with no relief in sight. Even in a city known for its heat, triple-digit temperatures in some cities around Los Angeles are breaking records, and proponents worry that the extremes will prove deadly to workers and others forced to be outside during the hottest hours of the year. day.

Israel Contreras, 45, pushed an ice cream truck over a mostly empty sidewalk in the Philippine city, stopping in the shade of a tree. “It’s too hot,” he said. Sweat soaked his shirt, but despite the lack of people outside, things weren’t too bad, he said. There were children waiting in their homes, and when they heard him, they would come out for the cold relief.

A Los Angeles salesman prepares a frozen ice cream treat during a California heat wave.
A Los Angeles salesman prepares a frozen ice cream treat during a California heat wave. Photo: Caroline Brehman/EPA

California’s extreme heat has raised concerns on a number of fronts: When firefighters fighting the blazes succumbed to heatstroke, while officials worried the state’s electrical grid could be overwhelmed, and as lawyers warned those without shelter or resources would be hardest hit.

Even with emergency measures from Governor Gavin Newsom, including additional generators to produce more energy, the heatwave was expected to strain California’s electrical grid to the limit. In an effort to avoid power outages, officials asked residents to try to reduce their energy consumption and avoid using large appliances during peak hours in the early evening, when people usually return home and turn on their air conditioners.

Rising temperatures have alarmed parents and school officials who spoke of public schools without enough greenery or shade for children to play outside safely. Asphalt on playgrounds can reach 145F in extreme heat waves, the Los Angeles Times reported. In San Diego, public high school students described the difficulty of concentrating in classrooms without working air conditioners, the Union-Tribune reported.

A woman bends over to dip her face into the stream of water that shoots from a yellow fire hydrant.
A woman cools off with water from a fire hydrant in the Skid Row area. The city’s large unhoused population is especially at risk. Photo: Jae C Hong/AP

Workers who have to be outside in the heat, and the tens of thousands of people in Los Angeles who don’t have homes, are at particular risk of heat-related illness and death, lawyers warned.

“A lot of people without a home will die because they’re here, they don’t have the right cold water, they don’t have the right shade,” says Theo Henderson, who hosts a podcast called We the Unhoused. Henderson urged residents who have housing units to freeze water bottles and pass them on to their unhoused neighbors throughout the weekend.

While Los Angeles has opened more than… 150 public cooling centers in response to the heat emergency, Henderson said, the number of centers is simply “not enough” for a region where an estimated 60,000 are unhoused.

As many as 3,900 deaths in California in the previous decade were likely caused by extreme heat, according to a 2021 Los Angeles Times analysis, with the state’s official statistics for heat deaths drastically substantiating the toll, which disproportionately affects people. afflicts those who are poor and sick. , elderly or very young. Black California residents were more likely than any other racial group to die from the heat, the analysis found.

In the historic Philippine city, aid organizations had advertised Friday that they would distribute hundreds of gallons of cold water to anyone willing to distribute it to their unhoused neighbors. Phillip Kim helped other young activists load bottles of water into the back of a car, where they would take it to people on the streets of Little Tokyo, he said.

“We’re not going to do a substance test,” joked Albert Corado, another local activist. Anyone who wanted water could take it, without question.

A woman walks on the sidewalk with a large pink umbrella.
A woman walks with an umbrella in Los Angeles. Residents have been told to stay hydrated and seek shade. Photo: Jae C Hong/AP

On Tuesday, garment workers and some Democratic Congressmen in California held a press conference demanding greater federal protection from extreme heat for workers, such as deliverymen and farm workers.

The Los Angeles library system said it would open two dozen emergency cooling center locations in the city on Sunday and Monday, which “will be staffed by librarians who have agreed to work over the holiday weekend,” library spokesman Jessica Lee said on Friday. But advocates like Henderson worry that even those efforts won’t be enough, urging the city to do more to let its most vulnerable residents know where to find refuge.

California has taken a more proactive approach than most to tackling the climate crisis, but many say the extreme heat wave is highlighting how much more aggressive action is needed.

Jane Fonda, the Hollywood actor who has been arrested multiple times at climate protests in Washington, noted that California lawmakers on Wednesday rejected a bill that would have set a more ambitious target of a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared with the current target of 40% reduction.

On Thursday morning, Fonda held a press conference in the blazing, nearly deserted streets outside Los Angeles City Hall to draw attention to her new climate-change-focused political action committee, which supports a range of city-level climate-focused candidates in Los Angeles.

“We need to talk about mitigation and long-term solutions at the same time,” Fonda said. “We are living with the consequences of climate change.”

Aerial view of Los Angeles and the surrounding mountains.
Temperatures in some areas are predicted to match or break previous records. Photo: Caroline Brehman/EPA

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.