The historic heat wave that has gripped most of California this week has resulted in broken temperature records, prompted cities and counties to open public “cooling centers” for the vulnerable, caused power outages—and might have even damaged a stretch of highly traveled asphalt along many commuters’ daily route.
About 3am Sept. 6, the California Department of Transportation’s maintenance crew responded to reports of the roadway buckling on Highway 101 just north of Highway 156 in San Benito County, according to Caltrans spokesperson Alexa Bertola. Crews responded to make repairs and conduct traffic control, resulting in the closure of two of three freeway lanes for several hours.
“We have our engineering staff and contractor staff on scene to determine the cause and repairs are being made at this moment,” Bertola said just before noon Sept. 6.
Bertola added that Caltrans staff don’t know for certain that the damage was caused by the heat, but it “seems likely it is extreme temperature related.”
Weather and health experts, along with public officials, began warning about the current heat wave last week as the forecast for Labor Day weekend had temperatures exceeding 100 degrees. Weather advisories have been extended daily since then, with current forecasts from the National Weather Service now saying the heat won’t let up until this weekend.
In Morgan Hill, the projected high for Sept. 8 is 103 degrees, which is forecast to drop to 97 by Friday, according to the National Weather Service website. Gilroy’s Sept. 8 high is forecast at 104, dropping to 98 on Friday. In Hollister, the projected high for both Sept. 8 and 9 is in the triple digits.
An “excessive heat warning” remains in effect in the region through at least Sept. 8, according to the NWS.
On Sept. 5, 11 cities in the Bay Area set record high temperatures, according to the NWS. That includes Gilroy, which recorded a high of 112—tying the city’s record for Sept. 5 set in 2017 and 2020.
The forecasts led PG&E to issue “flex alerts” throughout northern California, asking customers to voluntarily conserve electricity during peak hours to take strain off the power grid. Gilroy, Morgan Hill and Hollister opened their public libraries, recreation centers and other community centers to members of the public needing to take refuge in an air-conditioned space.
In Hollister, some young residents beat the heat by running through the water spray features at Valley View Park; or grabbing a frozen treat at Hokulia Shave Ice on East Park Street.
Earlier this week, power outages leaving hundreds of customers without electricity for hours made it even more difficult to get comfortable. An outage in east Morgan Hill on Sept. 5 affected more than 900 houses and businesses, according to PG&E. The outage started about 4pm and power was restored several hours later.
An outage reported about 6pm Sept. 5 in San Juan Bautista affected 273 customers in San Benito County, according to PG&E’s website. Electricity for those customers wasn’t restored until after 9pm.