California: On Tuesday, the heat dome punishing the West continued its suffocating stay over California, sending temperatures to all-time highs, making it harder to fight the wildfires now burning in various parts of the state and contributing to any post-holiday malaise residents may have been experiencing.

But the state avoided widespread blackouts.

Despite breaking a 16-year-old record for electricity use, California averted a statewide order for utilities to turn off the lights after increasingly dire warnings from state leaders. At one point Tuesday, the state sent emergency phone alerts imploring residents to shut off unnecessary power — or risk imminent outages.

Historic, unforgiving Western heat wave is peaking and crushing records

As Lupe Mani succinctly put it: “We’re suffering with this heat wave.”

I met Mani, 24, at the beach in Santa Monica on Tuesday afternoon. She’d driven an hour and a half with two of her girlfriends and one of their children from Menifee, not far from where the deadly Fairview fire was chewing through thousands of acres, prompting evacuation orders and school closures.

Evening outages occurred in three Bay Area cities — Healdsburg, Palo Alto, and Petaluma — according to their social media accounts. And PG&E said it shut off power to 12,000 residents in Davis to avoid a heat-related equipment failure. But energy grid officials said after sunset that Californians’ quick conservation scramble made a difference in avoiding state-ordered rolling blackouts.

“Dangerous” heat wave breaks at least a dozen records in California as the state prepares for the hottest day yet

If this weeklong ordeal has left you feeling worn down and anxious about life in the future in our rapidly warming region, you’re not alone — nor are you unjustified, according to experts.

This extreme heat has been “extraordinary in almost every dimension except humidity,” Daniel L. Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told my colleague.

The scorching heat itself is dangerous, of course. But what has made this heat wave stand out is its “mind-blowing” duration, he said.

California heat wave: No rolling blackouts Tuesday night

“Sacramento has rarely seen temperatures of 110 degrees plus for three, four days on end,” Swain said. (Sacramentans endured heat that reached a record-breaking high of 116 degrees on Tuesday — so hot that even Phoenix hasn’t reached that mark this year.)

As is the case for many of California’s biggest climate challenges — think of wildfires and the drought — extreme heat is likely to become a permanent fixture of life, and communities are scrambling to adapt.

In Los Angeles, Marta Segura’s new job is to help sound the alarm about extreme heat as the city’s new chief heat officer. It’s an expansion of her role running Los Angeles’s Climate Emergency Mobilization Office, but Segura said the new title was meant to be a bit more specific.

California Avoids Widespread Blackouts Even As Demand Surged To New High In Heat Wave

“Extreme heat is Los Angeles’s primary climate hazard,” she told me. “We want the public to understand that it is the primary climate hazard, and we want the state and federal government to get that message.”

Segura cited a federal risk index that showed Los Angeles County had the highest vulnerability to natural hazards of any county in the nation.

That’s large because of the way that heat compounds other types of dangers. It exacerbates health conditions and makes communities that are already vulnerable more so because the heat causes air pollution to stagnate.

Rotating outages ‘could be imminent’ as demand on California’s energy grid remains high

Increasingly, scientists and policymakers are pushing to treat extreme heat events more like other disasters. Right now, they say, death and sickness that is caused by extreme heat are vastly underestimated.

Last year, Dr. David Eisenman, the director of the University of California, Los Angeles’s Center for Public Health and Disasters, told me that the state was one of relatively few to implement worker-safety regulations regarding heat. Gov. Gavin Newsom has a bill on his desk that would start a framework for the state to rank heat waves. And air-conditioner technology is getting better, which means that cheaper, more energy-efficient units are more widely accessible than in years past.

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