YAKIMA, Wash. — For the second day in a row, temperatures in Central Washington soared to record highs.
At 106 degrees again Tuesday in Yakima, the heat wave has proven a bane to some, a boon to others.
The same blistering sunshine that caused apple and cherry growers to worry was welcomed by hay farmers.
Floaters and anglers headed for a relaxing day on the Yakima River. But firefighters, already tense about the looming Fourth of July festivities, were further stressed when the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for today through Thursday night due to increased fire danger as a result of rising winds and low humidity.
In Sunnyside, workers at Paleteria La Norteña turned out more than 5,000 of those cooling Mexican-style popsicles known as “paletas” on Tuesday.
“It’s the best time of the season for us,” said Jose Mendoza, co-owner of the company.
But what’s good for Mendoza isn’t necessarily for others.
The record heat continued to pose problems for farmers whose crops are susceptible to sunburn and dehydration that reduces quality.
Developing apples are especially susceptible to sunburn, a discoloration of the fruit’s skin that has yet to develop the natural pigmentation to ward off sunburn, said Matt Whiting, a horticulturalist at the Washington State University research center at Prosser.
Intense sunlight also is a problem for apricots and other soft fruits.
“Sunburn is by far the greatest concern,” Whiting said.
He said the 2014 cherry crop could be affected since intense heat on fruit buds for next year’s crop can result in two cherries attached to the same stem, which makes the fruit unmarketable.
Whiting said growers can operate sprinklers to provide cooling in orchard blocks and apply commercial products that coat the fruit, essentially a sunblock, to protect from sunburn.
The heat is a welcome change of pace for Anderson Hay in Ellensburg, where recent rains have helped make this year dismal for the Timothy hay crop.
“For Timothy, this is probably the toughest year we’ve had,” said Mark Anderson, CEO and president of Anderson Hay.
The heat, however, has a positive effect.
“The heat will mature the hay faster,” Anderson said. “The biggest issue we’re fighting in the hay industry is the rain.”
Anderson isn’t alone in benefiting from the warm weather.
Red’s Fly Shop, a fishing guide and river equipment rental store on the Yakima River midway between Selah and Ellensburg on State Route 821, reports an increase in business since temperatures began approaching 100 degrees.
“It’s kind of natural for people to be drawn to the water once the heat kicks up,” said Danny Snider, retail manager at Red’s.
Snider said raft rentals have picked up during the past week. They’ve also had to hire extra instructors for their fly-fishing courses due to high demand.
“For us, the heat’s always good. It drives people to water,” Snider said.
To compensate for the heat, Red’s encourages people to dress appropriately and to leave their waders at home.
“Always try to have a rag or hat to dunk in the river,” Snider said. “Got to have sun protection.”
The warm weather is sending plenty of others to the river — a trend that’s relaxing for some and more work for others.
“The higher the heat the more river rescues we have,” said Darren Higashiayama, operations commander for the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office. “River rescues are mainly due to intoxication.”
To his point, a 27-year-old Yakima woman was rescued Sunday from the Yakima River after being found unconscious in the water by two people in a canoe. The woman’s friends were so intoxicated that they didn’t notice she’d been separated from the group, according to the sheriff’s office.
On Tuesday, Pacific Power reported the heavy use of air conditioners helped push up power consumption some 30 percent higher than the average summer day.
That’s slightly higher than last year’s peak-use day on Aug. 14, when the temperature reached 102 degrees, said Tom Gauntt, regional spokesman in Portland.
“Our peaks are expected to stay well within our ability to supply everybody,” Gauntt said.
The weather service is forecasting today’s high temperatures to be around 95 degrees — down from Monday and Tuesday, when temperatures of 106 in Yakima broke previous records both set in 2006.
By Friday, temperatures are expected to decline to 84 degrees, the weather service said.