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Heat wave hits Turlock
Melting snow forces river rescues
river rescue
The Modesto Fire Department rescued two separate parties from the Stanislaus River over Memorial Day Weekend — the result of fast-moving, cold waters as this week’s heat wave melts the depleted Sierra Nevada snowpack (Photo contributed).

While summer is still a month away, its triple-digit heat has already arrived.

The National Weather Service issued an Excessive Heat Warning for parts of Northern California this week — including the Turlock area — which went into effect at 11 a.m. Monday and will last through 7 p.m. Thursday. Daytime highs have been in the triple figures this week, with temperatures expected to reach 107 on both Wednesday and Thursday.

Noted by the NWS as the first significant heat wave of the year, overnight temperatures have also remained warm and will continue to offer little relief from the high temperatures for the remainder of the week. A large dome of high pressure that is building up and expanding across the state caused the heat wave, according to NWS.

Temperatures will cool down to 98 on Friday, while Saturday and Sunday will bring weather in the low 80s. By Monday, Turlock’s afternoon high will be 78 with temperatures in the mid- to upper-80s for the remainder of next week.

Criteria for an Excessive Heat Warning is a heat index of 105 or greater that will last for two hours or more. During the heat wave, NWS recommends drinking plenty of fluids, resting in an air-conditioned room, staying out of the sun and checking on relatives and neighbors. Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, and it is never safe to leave a toddler, disabled person or pet locked in a car.

Although coronavirus restrictions closed Turlock’s water spray parks and pools, which will once again welcome visitors when Stanislaus County enters Stage 3 of re-opening, local lakes like Don Pedro Reservoir recently re-opened just in time for Memorial Day weekend. While the lakes are calm, local rivers and streams are currently running fast and cold. The Modesto Fire Department responded to two separate water rescues on the Stanislaus River over the weekend; one when a group of four adults and one child lost their rafts and innertubes in Class IV rapids below the Goodwin Canyon Dam and another where six adults were rescued from the middle of the river channel.

“With the increasing temperatures, we want to remind river users to be prepared for fast moving, cold water, to always wear an approved personal flotation device while on the river and refrain from using floats not rated for use on rivers such as pool floats,” MFD said.

The rushing waters come as California’s already dismal snowpack continues to melt in the high heat. According to the California Department of Water Resources, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is currently just 10 percent of normal for the date as of May 26. Despite some March storms, snowfall was significantly below average this past winter and NWS reports that this week’s temperatures will likely melt the remaining snow.

Despite the dry winter and its meager snowpack as a result, Don Pedro Reservoir is in good shape at 87 percent of capacity and 114 percent of the historical average. Still, parts of California are currently in a drought. According to the U.S. Drought Portal, 11,376,000 California residents, or 31 percent of the state’s population, are in drought, while an additional 2.7 million are living in abnormally dry areas. The entirety of Stanislaus County, save for its far western corner, is currently classified as an area in moderate drought.