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Climate and Environment

How To Survive This Week’s Extreme Heat Wave

Three people walk down a path in Death Valley in front of a barren hillside. The closest person has their shirt off and is wearing it over their head to block the sun.
Visitors walk by the salt flats of Badwater Basin inside Death Valley National Park on June 17, 2021.
(Patrick T. Fallon
AFP via Getty Images)
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Southern California is in the midst of a prolonged heat wave that’s bringing triple-digit temperatures.

While it’s going to be dangerously hot through Labor Day weekend, you might still have work to do, errands to run and places to visit. So whether you’re staying home or trying to survive outside, we’ve got you covered with every hot weather tip in the book.

How To Endure The Heat Outdoors

It’s a scorcher outside in L.A. no matter where you go. So while you’re looking for some relief, make sure you’re doing these things to survive the heat:

  • First, stay hydrated. That means:

    • Ditch the coffee, tea, and soda. Instead, grab a glass of ice water. 
    • Make sure you’re drinking enough water. To prevent dehydration, the CDC recommends two to four glasses of water every hour. 
    • And remember: If you're thirsty, you're already mildly dehydrated.
  • Next, wear breathable clothing:

    • Something lightweight and light-colored can help keep you cool.
    • Bring a hat or umbrella to protect your face.
  • Don’t forget to wear sunscreen if you have it!

    • It’s good for general skin care, but it’s an essential layer of projection when the sun is bearing down.
    • Keep in mind that sunscreen benefits everyone, it’s not just for fair-skinned people.
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If you can, try to avoid going out during the hottest hours of the day. That’s usually around 4 p.m.

Where To Find Places To Cool Down

Cooling centers do exactly what they sound like: provide a free, air-conditioned place to get some relief. Both L.A. city and county run these facilities. They’re located at parks, libraries, even city buildings.

While you can always cool down in a public library (they function as permanent centers), officials add more cooling locations when the heat gets extreme.

In preparation for the heat wave, L.A. County has updated its list of cooling centers. Check out the Ready L.A. County map below to find a center near you.

Or just call 2-1-1 to find a county cooling center. (If you only want L.A. city centers, call 3-1-1.)

Most cooling centers follow regular business hours, but during extreme heat those hours can be extended.

Additional L.A. city centers will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Aug. 31 to Sept. 5. The locations are:

  • South Los Angeles Sports Activity Center: 7020 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90003
  • Jim Gilliam Recreation Center: 4000 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90008
  • Westwood Recreation Center: 1350 S Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025
  • Westchester Senior Center: 7000 W Manchester Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90045
  • Lincoln Park Recreation Center: 3501 Valley Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90031
  • Lafayette Recreation Center: 625 S. Lafayette Park Pl., Los Angeles, CA 90031
  • Canoga Park Senior Center: 7326 Jordan Ave., Canoga Park, CA 91303
  • Mid Valley Senior Center: 8825 Kester Ave., Panorama City, CA 91402
  • Sylmar Recreation Center: 13109 Borden Ave., Sylmar, CA 91342
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Before you visit a center, it’s recommended that you call ahead to see if they have room. And if you have a pet, verify that it's OK to bring them along. Libraries only allow service animals, according to spokesperson Joseph Riser, and park locations require pets to stay in crates.
If your local center is full, you can also head to places like shopping centers to cool down. Keep in mind, cooling and shopping centers are monitored by security.

Keeping Your Pets Safe

A pup rests in a blue kiddy pool
Pugs and other flat-faced animals are especially sensitive to the heat
(Stephan Jansen
AFP via Getty Images)

Extreme heat doesn’t only take a toll on people — remember that pets can overheat too.

Never, under any circumstances, leave your pets in a car. Temperatures climb very fast in a vehicle, and it can be life-threatening to leave the animal inside.

Pets can also feel hot surfaces. So avoid having your animals walk on hot ground, like asphalt. If you wouldn't walk on it barefoot, don’t make your pet do it.

Animals also need to stay hydrated. So give them plenty of water and shade to help them avoid heat stress and heat stroke.

The signs for that include excessive drooling, weakness, a reluctance to move, and panting.

And remember: Animals with flat faces, like pugs and Persian cats, are at higher risk because they’re not able to pant as effectively.

Signs Of Heat Illness

If you’re under the blazing sun for too long, you can be at risk for heat-related illnesses. If you have to be outside, pay close attention to your body.

There’s heat cramps, which are painful, involuntary muscle spasms.

And there’s heat exhaustion, which can cause (stay with me):

  • Dizziness
  • Heavy sweating
  • Clammy skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Increased thirst
  • A weak pulse

And the most serious: heat stroke, which can make you:

  • Feel confused
  • Have throbbing headaches
  • Have hot and dry skin
  • Raise your body temperature to dangerous levels

Heat stroke is a medical emergency that can make you pass out. So that means if you find someone with heat stroke, call 9-1-1.

How To Stay Cool At Home

For folks staying indoors, you know extreme heat can still permeate your home.

During a heat wave, it’s easy to think that turning on your air conditioner will solve the day’s problems. But what if you don’t have one?

Here are some ways that you can still stay cool.

There’s the obvious idea: Buy a fan. But did you know that setting that fan to rotate counterclockwise will push air down? Not all fans can do this, but it’s worth checking to see if your ceiling fan can.

You can also:

  • Freeze wet paper towels to put on your neck.
  • Take a cold shower or bath. 
  • Close doors in unused rooms to keep cold air where you need it.
  • Turn on bathroom and stove top fans to suck hot air out.

How To Conserve Vital Power During A Heat Wave

Extreme heat can also bring extreme use of power. That’s because a lot of people are trying to stay cool at home all at the same time.

That puts a strain on our power grid, which increases the risk for flex alerts and blackouts. Remember: This heat wave is expected to be longer than usual, so we need to prepare to help our community and our wallets.

This week, make sure to:

  • Set your A/C to 78 degrees or higher.
  • Keep blinds and drapes closed.
  • Only wash your clothes or dishes in the early morning or late evening hours.
  • Turn off any unnecessary lights.
  • Unplug energy vampires. Those are the appliances that drain power while they’re unused, like microwaves and phone chargers.

A Flex Alert Could Come

The high temperatures could trigger a flex alert from the group that manages the state's electrical grid.

The California Independent System Operation (Cal-ISO) issues the alerts when extremely hot weather drives up electricity use, making available power supply scarce.

Chief Operating Officer Mark Rothleder says the last days of the heat wave will be challenging:

"When the temperatures are highest on Sunday and Monday, that's probably the most intense period, and that's when we're seeing the most grid stress, potentially," Rothleder says.

A flex alert could come as early as this Thursday.

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  • We're taking your questions about September's heat wave. Text HEATWAVE to 73224 to ask us your questions, and to receive our latest news on these outrageous temps, directly to your phone.

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Updated August 30, 2022 at 3:45 PM PDT
This story was updated to include the city's additional cooling center locations and flex alert concerns.
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