MERCED -- It's been a roller-coaster ride for temperatures in the Merced area this summer, with the thermometer running from below normal at times to typical Valley triple digits. Now the mercury is climbing steeply once again.
But this time, it won't be for just a couple of days, forecasters say, warning that extreme temperatures could bake the region for nearly a week -- possibly topping out at 112 degrees this weekend.
The National Weather Service has issued an "excessive heat watch" from Friday afternoon through Sunday night for the central and southern San Joaquin Valley and nearby foothills.
Forecasters are predicting temperatures between 106 and 112 in the Valley by Friday, with 106 degrees expected in the foothills.
It hit 100 degrees on Tuesday in Merced, according to AccuWeather, and the heat was expected to steadily increase to 109 on Saturday. The forecast calls for temperatures to stay at or above the century mark through Wednesday.
Other communities expected to see extreme heat in the coming days, forecasters warned, include Los Banos, Mariposa, Oak- hurst, Bakersfield, Visalia, Hanford, Lemoore, Madera and Fresno.
According to the weather service, an excessive heat watch means that a prolonged period of hot temperatures is expected and will create conditions in which heat-related health problems, such as heat exhaustion and heat stoke, are possible.
Here's what to watch out for, according to health care officials:
Heat stroke: Mental confusion, delirium, loss of consciousness, convulsions or coma; a body temperature of 106 degrees or higher; hot, dry skin which might be red, mottled or bluish. Victims of heat stroke will die unless treated promptly.
Heat exhaustion: Extreme weakness or fatigue, giddiness, nausea or headache. The skin is clammy and moist, the complexion pale or flushed, and the body temperature normal or slightly higher.
To reduce the risk of having such problems, health officials suggest drinking plenty of water and sports drinks to stay adequately hydrated. They also recommend avoiding alcohol and caffeinated beverages because they dehydrate people very quickly.
If possible, people should avoid being outdoors from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun is usually most intense and air quality is the worst.
For those who have to be outside during the heat wave, it's considered essential to take regular breaks, get out of the sun and drink lots of fluids. Employers are required to take extra precautions to ensure worker safety.
Extreme heat can be a hazard for pets, too. Experts say pets should have adequate water and, if left outside, access to shade. They also stress that animals should not be left unattended in vehicles -- even with the windows left slightly open.