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During record-breaking heat wave, cooling centers are ‘godsend’ for Bakersfield residents

Volunteers pass out cold water and serve meals on Tuesday at The Mission at Kern County, one of the city's two cooling centers.
Joshua Yeager
Bakersfield residents seek refuge Tuesday from the 115 degree heat at The Mission at Kern County, one of the city's two cooling centers.

Bakersfield residents turned to public cooling centers this week to beat the heat, as the mercury soared past 115 degrees, obliterating century-old daily records across the San Joaquin Valley.

Dozens gathered Tuesday afternoon at The Mission at Kern County, one of two cooling centers in the broiling city. Volunteers handed out cold bottles of water and meals, while Jeffrey Hudson and other visitors basked in front of the air conditioning.

“This is really, really a godsend right here,” he says.

Hudson lives here at the mission. Without it, he fears he’d be in the hospital – or worse – during the record heat.

“You can’t even work in this weather. It’s too detrimental to your health,” says Hudson, a roofer by trade.

Mission leader Carlos Baldovinos says the cooling center is potentially lifesaving for the city’s homeless residents.

“It’s 113 out, but that concrete, if they’re laying down, it can easily be 120, 130 degrees,” he says, noting that the cooling center saw its highest attendance ever this week.

Valley temperatures should cool off by the weekend

David Spector, a forecaster at the National Weather Service, says Valley residents won’t experience much relief from the heat until the weekend.

“We’re expected to have near-record heat again on Thursday and Friday, although temperatures are expected to be slightly cooler than [Wednesday],” he says.

A high-pressure ridge is keeping the air stagnant and blistering over much of California. Temperatures are expected to blaze past records until Saturday, he says.

But Hurricane Kay developing off the coast of Mexico could send moisture and cooler air to Central California.

While the storm is expected to largely dissipate before reaching California shores, Spector says up to an inch of rain could hit the Kern County mountains and desert.

Temperatures will cool to the low 90s across the Valley – still above September averages but a welcome reprieve from the record-breaking numbers seen this week.

An excessive heat warning remains in effect valleywide until 8 p.m. Friday. Cooling centers are active across the region.

Joshua Yeager is a Report For America corps reporter covering Kern County for KVPR.