Heat wave sets new records across county

SAN DIEGO -- Stiff Santa Ana winds, exceedingly dry air and record-shattering heat kept the San Diego area in a swelter and on high wildfire alert for a second straight day Tuesday.

Many local communities -- even along the coast -- wilted under triple- digit thermometer readings Tuesday afternoon, which marked the expected zenith of the extreme, summer-like hot spell that has gripped the region since last weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

An NWS "red flag" wildfire advisory remained in effect for a third day, cautioning of extreme combustion hazards in inland locales through Wednesday evening, and the U.S. Forest Service increased its "threat index," warning that any fires erupting amid the dicey conditions would grow rapidly and "be difficult to control."

Area firefighting agencies responded by keeping their staffing and equipment availability at their highest levels, while dozens of local public schools maintained minimum-day schedules that kicked in Monday and were slated to continue Wednesday.

The heat wave delivered record maximum temperatures across the region on Tuesday, including 107 degrees in Vista, exceeding the prior high of 96, set in 1965; 105 in El Cajon (98, 2007); 100 in Ramona (96, 2007); 99 in Alpine (98, 1968); 99 in Chula Vista (91, 1999); 98 at Oceanside Harbor (87, 1965); and 97 in San Diego (94, 1965).

A gradual cooldown, weakening winds and a slow return of higher humidity levels will begin Wednesday, according to meteorologists.