Death Valley reaches 130 degrees; US West grapples with heat wave, drought
DEATH VALLEY, Calif. - California's Death Valley has long been known as one of the hottest places on Earth.
And true to form, the temperature climbed to an incredible 130 degrees in the northern Mojave desert all three days this past weekend.
That's just four degrees shy of the highest known temperature on the planet, which was also recorded in death valley in 1913.
The temperature never dropped below 100 degrees in Death Valley this past weekend.
Meanwhile, firefighters were working in extreme temperatures across the U.S. West and struggling to contain wildfires, the largest burning in California and Oregon, as another heat wave baked the region, straining power grids.
The largest wildfire of the year in California — the Beckwourth Complex — was raging along the Nevada state line and has burned about 134 square miles as state regulators asked consumers to voluntarily "conserve as much electricity as possible" to avoid any outages starting Monday afternoon.
In Oregon, the Bootleg Fire exploded to 224 square miles (580 square kilometers) as it raced through heavy timber in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, near the Klamath County town of Sprague River. The fire disrupted service on three transmission lines providing up to 5,500 megawatts of electricity to neighboring California.
The blazes come as the West is in the midst of a second extreme heat wave within just a few weeks and as the entire region is suffering from one of the worst droughts in recent history. Extreme heat warnings in California were finally expected to expire Monday night.
Late Saturday, flames jumped U.S. 395, which was closed near the small town of Doyle in California’s Lassen County. The lanes reopened Sunday, and officials urged motorists to use caution and keep moving along the key north-south route where flames were still active.
"Do not stop and take pictures," said the fire’s Operations Section Chief Jake Cagle. "You are going to impede our operations if you stop and look at what’s going on."
Cagle said structures had burned in Doyle, but he didn’t have an exact number. Bob Prary, who manages the Buck-Inn Bar in the town of about 600 people, said he saw at least six houses destroyed after Saturday’s flareup. The fire was smoldering Sunday in and around Doyle, but he feared some remote ranch properties were still in danger.
"It seems like the worst is over in town, but back on the mountainside the fire’s still going strong," Prary said.
A new fire broke out Sunday afternoon in the Sierra Nevada south of Yosemite National Park and by evening covered more than 6 square miles, triggering evacuations in areas of two counties. Containment was just 5% but the highway leading to the southern entrance of the park remained open early Monday.