Temperatures shattered records in San Francisco on Friday, reaching 106 degrees in the usually foggy city. The scorching weather continued into Saturday.
Despite The City’s best efforts, not everyone could beat the heat. Twenty-six people were hospitalized for heat-related illnesses on Friday, and another 12 on Saturday by 5 p.m., according to the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management.
The department could not confirm any heat-related fatalities, and said that information would not be available until after the weekend.
By 5 p.m. Friday, the Department of Emergency Management activated its Emergency Operations Center, a crucial team that organizes emergency information among city agencies during time of heightened need.
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This was especially necessary Friday, officials noted, as 911 calls surged during the heat.
On Friday, The City also announced that four “cooling centers” were available for the public, as well as four public libraries with air conditioning and swimming pools run by the Recreation and Parks Department that were free to the public Saturday.
But though that emergency operations center was activated in the evening, heat-related warnings came far earlier — a heat advisory was issued by the National Weather Service Bay Area at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
San Francisco knew it would get hot, but did not necessarily mobilize its resources until late in the day Friday, which surprised local officials.
“It was 106 degrees in the middle of the day,” Supervisor Jane Kim told the San Francisco Examiner. “It was very clear action needed to be taken earlier.”
Supervisor Aaron Peskin agreed. “It raises legitimate questions,” he said. “It’s a cause for concern.”
At 12:43 p.m. Friday it was 98 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. By 1:43 p.m. it was 101 degrees. The City hit the historic 106 degree mark sometime after 2 p.m., though since the weather service records temperatures hourly, they could not pinpoint an exact time.
The National Weather Service sent out an “excessive heat warning” at 12:14 p.m. Friday — a dire warning meant to save lives.
“Any time we put out an excessive heat warning, we wouldn’t put it out unless we think the public should take it seriously,” said Brian Garcia, a warning coordination meteorologist with the NWS.Garcia said the weather service was in contact with emergency officials Bay Area-wide since early in the week. He added a caveat, however: San Francisco was not included in those Bay Area heat advisories until Thursday.
“We were ramping up even more than our guidance was telling us,” Garcia added. “Friday morning rolled around, and we saw the temperatures rising fast [in San Francisco] … The messaging was out there.”
Once DEM activated the emergency operations command center, the agency “requested and received mutual aid from various counties that include ambulances and a disaster medical supply unit,” wrote DEM spokesperson Kristin Hogan in an email.
The emergency operations command also included DEM personnel representing public safety, public health and human services.
Late Saturday night, DEM deactivated its emergency operations command center, which involved sending all personnel home. In a swift turnaround, DEM re-activated its emergency operations command center Sunday at noon.