If you’ve ever thought Woodland Hills seems to be the hottest, stickiest and most furnace-like locale in the San Fernando Valley, that’s because it is.
On Monday, Woodland Hills matched the Aug. 6 heat record from 15 years ago, with the mercury climbing to 108 degrees.
However, this was relatively tame compared to the 119 degrees recorded at Pierce College in July 2006—the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in Los Angeles County.
Although it seems counter-intuitive that there would be much of a difference in temperatures between neighboring areas like Tarzana, Canoga Park and Woodland Hills, the geography of the area produces a micro-climate (hyper-local weather) that makes Woodland Hills the epicenter for the most extreme temperatures in the San Fernando Valley.
According to Jason Finley, assistant professor of geography/meteorology at Pierce College and director of the Pierce College weather station, “Woodland Hills is hot mostly due to the Santa Monica mountains that cut off the Pacific Ocean sea breeze and sometimes cut off the marine layer, as well.”
The entire San Fernando Valley is affected by the terrain, but “The eastern part can experience more of the moderating effects of the ocean through passes, like the Sepulveda pass,” while the western area, like Woodland Hills, doesn’t experience similar cooling effects, according to Finley.
Ryan Kittell, forecaster with the National Weather Service, explained the process in more detail.
“During the day, as the land warms up in the valleys, the air starts to rise. This, in turn, forces air to start moving from the ocean toward the valleys (this is the sea breeze). This marine air first hits the coastal areas late in the morning, and although the sun will remain up for a number of more hours, the temperatures start to cool because the air is from the cool ocean water," Kittell said.
“Over the course of the rest of the day, this cool air makes its way deeper into the LA basin, then into the San Gabriel Valley to the east and through the Cahuenga Pass to the north,” he added.
Because of the mountains, it hits the west valley last, leaving Woodland Hills with the least amount of cool air.
“The areas that receive this air last have more time to warm up...and end up with the hottest daytime temperatures,” said Kittell.
The American Red Cross warn that excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods.
To stay safe during a heat wave, the organization offers the following tips.
1. Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding drinks with caffeine and alcohol.
2. Stay out of direct sun as much as possible—and if your work requires that you be outside, seek shade often, take breaks, and stay hydrated.
3. If you live somewhere without air conditioning, try to plan to spend the hottest part of the day out of the house at a place like a library, theater, or mall—all of which are generally equipped with air conditioning and water fountains.
4. Don’t forget your pets! Animals need water and shade as well.
5. The elderly, young, and sick are most likely to suffer a medical emergency during a heat wave. Make sure to check on neighbors and friends—especially those who live alone.
6. If you, or someone you know, starts to suffer from heat sickness, get medical help right away. Signs of heat exhaustion, and possible heat stroke are: muscle cramps, dizziness, weakness, exhaustion, vomiting, cool and moist, pale or flushed skin, and loss of consciousness. In extreme cases of heat stroke, the victim will be very hot, and the skin will usually be dry and red.
If someone is exhibiting these symptoms, call 911, and try to keep the person cool with damp clothes or ice packs wrapped around their wrists, ankles, neck, groin and armpits.
For more information, visit www.redcross.org