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Medford ties all-time heat record

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Safia Wolkowski, 9, and Justyna Wolkowski, 11, cool off Monday in Emigrant Lake.

On Monday afternoon, Medford tied the city’s all-time high temperature record set 75 years ago.

The record-tying reading of 115 degrees was last reached July 20, 1946, according to National Weather Service data.

Scattered reports of hitting that mark started to pop up on social media sites such as Twitter prior to then, but the Weather Service had to wait a bit longer to make it official. The agency takes readings every minute, and the five-minute rolling average displays the official reading.

“We (had) briefly hit 115, but it was not a long enough duration to officially be a high of 115,” said meteorologist Brett Lutz of the prior reports.

Wind kicked in shortly after, meteorologist Ryan Sandler said, effectively ensuring that the temperature wouldn’t climb any higher. As of 4:15 p.m., the breeze-stunted heat had dropped back down to 109 as winds gusted from the west.

“The air isn’t disturbed as much, and it really heats up near the ground,” Sandler said. “We know as soon as the wind kicks in that that’s probably the end of it. We were curious when that would happen. An hour later, and we probably would have broken a record, but it didn’t happen.”

Back in 1946, when the record first occurred, hitting the 115-degree mark was a bit easier, Sandler added. If meteorologists abided by 1946 guidelines, hitting 116, even for an instant, would have counted as breaking the record. But with the Weather Service’s current Automated Surface Observing System, or ASOS, a 5-minute rolling average is required, Sandler said.

"Everything else being the same, it’s a little bit harder to do than it used to be,“ Sandler said.

Triple-digit streak

The tie was the city’s latest hit in an ongoing toasty streak.

Medford had already endured the hottest June day on record Sunday when the high temperature soared to 113 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

The previous hottest June temperature for the city was 111 degrees, set June 22, 1992.

It took a while for things to cool down overnight, too.

“At 9 o’clock, it was still 102,” meteorologist Brian Nieuwenhuis said. “At midnight, it was 91.”

The temperature bottomed out at 75 degrees overnight. That’s one degree off the highest overnight low temperature for that day, Weather Service officials said.

The heat was accompanied by a 2-hour power outage that, at its peak, affected more than 30,000 Pacific Power customers in the Rogue Valley.

The blackout extended from about 9 to 11 p.m., Pacific Power spokesman Drew Hanson said. The failure of a transformer bushing, a component that allows electricity to flow safely through the unit, caused the outage.

The scorching Sunday followed a sizzling Saturday that hit 104 degrees in Medford. That wasn’t enough to topple the daily temperature record for June 26 — 107 degrees, set in 2015.

Fire watch

Despite the heat, wildfire activity in Jackson and Josephine counties remained low over the weekend.

Wildland firefighters responded to one small grass fire Saturday and Sunday, Oregon Department of Forestry public information officer Natalie Weber said.

That fire, near Redwood Elementary School, in Grants Pass, burned one-hundredth of an acre. ODF also responded to a handful of other blazes such as vehicle and structure fires.

“This is typically what we see when the weather gets really hot,” Weber said. “We don’t see as many fires, which is great. If you think about it, people are spending a lot more time indoors.”

Fires typically pop up along roadways in extreme heat, she added.

“It’s usually people who are having problems with their catalytic converter or are dragging chains and it’s sparking,” Weber said.

High fire danger remained in effect on ODF-protected lands in Jackson and Josephine counties Monday. That comes with restrictions on power equipment use, with equipment like power saws and mowers prohibited between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., Weber said. Debris burning is also still prohibited.

In Siskiyou County, California, fire officials were battling the Lava fire near the town of Weed. The fast-growing fire was listed Monday morning at 1,446 acres with 20% containment, and evacuation advisories had been issued for areas along Highway 97 and Big Springs Road, including the community of Lake Shastina.

More of the same forecast

The heat is expected to continue this week as a substantial ridge of high pressure continues to stay put over the Pacific Northwest.

“It’s just sitting there. You can think of it as a big bubble of just warm, hot temperatures,” Nieuwenhuis said.

Then there’s the thermal trough — hot air at the surface level — which usually comes up out of California to coastal areas along parts of the Oregon Coast and pushes inland.

“That thermal trough, which usually only extends up into Southern Oregon, that’s going all the way up to Canada. Up to Seattle,” Nieuwenhuis said. “Basically everything’s shifted way north of where it usually is.”

Triple digits are in the forecast into the weekend. The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning until 11 p.m. Thursday, July 1. The coverage area for that advisory includes Jackson, Klamath, Josephine, Lake, Siskiyou, Modoc and Douglas counties.

“The high daytime temperatures combined with warm overnight lows will result in high heat risk and heat-related stress,” the advisory said. “Some daily high temperature records will be broken. High temperature records for June are likely to be set, and there is a chance to set all-time highs for any date.”

The all-time record for consecutive 100-plus degree temperatures in Medford is 10, occurring in 1962 and 1967, Nieuwenhuis said. That record could potentially be tied based on the forecast.

Smoke from the Lava fire could offer some cooling. So could some monsoonal moisture forecast to come up out of the southwest later this week.

Weather Service officials continued to point toward several recommendations intended to help Rogue Valley residents stay safe in the heat.

• Stay hydrated and limit outdoor activity

• Don’t leave people or pets in a closed, parked vehicle

• Wear a life jacket if recreating on the water

Reach Mail Tribune web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanpfeil.