The heat wave that's held California in its grip for more than a week has jeopardized the power supply in the south, sent the mercury soaring to 129 degrees in Death Valley National Park, and killed at least one farm worker in the Central Valley.
In spite of a mild dip in temperatures at the end of the week, with moisture, strong winds and rain coming in from the southern part of California, triple-digit heat is expected to continue to tax much of the state's hot spots through the weekend, meteorologists said.
Whether temperatures in Lodi will surpass last Sunday's 103-degree high, or the previous day's 102, remains to be seen.
Private forecasting company AccuWeather predicted that Lodi could reach 103 today and 99 on Sunday -- "but I wouldn't be surprised if it were over 100 both days," Meterologist Paul Yeager said Friday.
"It's probably going to stay that way through Monday and Tuesday," he said.
To add to matters, Lodi Lake is again closed to swimmers, due to bacteria counts attributed to goose droppings and slow-moving water.
The lake was closed for 10 days earlier this month -- including over the July 4th weekend -- for the same reason.
The continuing heat is prompting warnings about the dangers of heat stroke, and calls to reduce power use -- even as a small tornado reportedly whipped through Twentynine Palms in San Bernardino County, damaging the roof of one home and knocking out power in one neighborhood when a trampoline blew into a transformer, officials said. No one was hurt.
Despite the system that is moving in, power usage was still breaking records in Los Angeles on Friday, leading mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to call on local residents and businesses to do their part "to help avert a potential energy crisis in Southern California."
The agency that controls most of the state's electrical flow -- the California Independent System Operator -- declared a Stage 2 power alert for Southern California on Thursday and Friday, because energy reserves had dipped to below 5 percent of generating capacity.
"Air conditioning really pulls from the grid," said Kristina Werst, a spokeswoman for Cal-ISO. "We're asking people to conserve, especially during peak hours -- 4 to 6 p.m."
In the Central Valley, the heat is taking its toll on farmers and farmworkers.
Summer is peak harvest season for the fruits, vegetables and nuts that make these some of the country's highest grossing farm counties. Hundreds of thousands of fieldworkers are picking produce now, and the heat is a real threat to them, farmworker advocates said.
Last week, Salud Zamudio Rodriguez, 42, died of heat exposure while picking bell peppers south of Bakersfield, sparking renewed calls from the UFW for emergency worker safety regulations.
Since then, two fieldworkers and a construction worker have died in the Central Valley, possibly because of the heat, or of illnesses that were aggravated by the heat. Their causes of death still have not been confirmed by county coroners.
The union is supporting a bill that would mandate monitoring of work site temperatures, making drinking water available, and training workers to identify heat-related illnesses.
But labor advocates said that even if AB805 passes -- it's now in the Senate -- it won't take effect until next year.
"We welcome any serious effort at creating an emergency regulation" that would start protecting workers now, said Marc Grossman for the UFW.
Meanwhile, farmers and farm groups are taking measures to help their crops and their workers survive the heat.
The California Farm Bureau is reaching out to growers and spreading the word on what symptoms to look for, and how to avoid overheating by staying hydrated, said Elisa Noble, who directs their Rural Health and Safety program.
Bill Chandler, who grows tree fruit and almonds near Fowler, said he's calling a meeting with his workers on Saturday to train them on the symptoms of heat illness. He has given his foremen cards with descriptions of heat illness, and emergency contact information.
His workers are avoiding the worst part of the afternoon by starting as soon as there's enough light to tell a green peach from a ripe one, he said, and stopping around 2 or 3 in the afternoon.
"We're not moving as fast, but we have to be extremely careful with the workers in this heat," said Chandler, adding that the fruit is suffering, too. He's lost a fifth of his crop to sunburns, bruises and overripeness, he said.
News-Sentinel staff writer Layla Bohm contributed to this report.