Adjusting to our new normal of extreme heat: A photo essay

It started in late May as I began to pull images out of the ether.

My task was to illustrate extreme heat in Southern California and show how a community struggles to deal with this effect of climate change.

As my colleagues wrote, “Each year, extreme heat kills more Americans than any other climate-fueled hazard, including hurricanes, floods and wildfires, but it gets far less attention because it kills so quietly.”

I tried to put a human face on the issue. Among the images: A man in L.A.’s skid row bathes under a bucket of water; a woman sits in her trailer, a fan, wet towel and dog, her constant companions; a man mourns the loss of his friend who he suspects died from heat in his trailer; a son looks longingly at a construction hard hat belonging to his father who died after a day working under the sun; a child cools off in a laundry basket, and firefighters tend to a woman who struggles to breathe on a hot afternoon.

As with all assignments, a few surprises crossed my path. Literally, in the case of Roger Embrey. He seemed to appear out of the thin air walking along a dusty road in Desert Hot Springs wearing black slacks, vest, a crisp white shirt with a cup of coffee in his hand. He was on his way to a job interview. A surreal experience in the 107-degree heat.

And finally, I spent time with young men playing a game of basketball against the setting sun, with the promise of cooler temperatures on the horizon.

Diane McLindon and her dog Frankie try to stay cool in their trailer in Desert Hot Springs.

Diane McLindon, 63, with her dog, Frankie, cools off with a wet towel and fan in their trailer in Desert Hot Springs.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

People, reflected on glass panels, make their way through the muggy weather on the Santa Monica Pier

People, reflected on glass panels, make their way through the muggy weather on the Santa Monica Pier.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Marc Washington.

Marc Washington, 45, drinks from a bottle of water given to him by outreach workers from the Midnight Mission on skid row.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Roger Embrey, 40, walks to a job interview along a deserted portion of a road in Desert Hot Springs.

Roger Embrey, 40, walks to a job interview along a deserted portion of Dillon Road in Desert Hot Springs where temperatures reached 107 degrees on July 27.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Porfirio Juarez wipes his faces underneath a new AC unit

Porfirio Juarez wipes his face underneath a new AC unit in their trailer in Desert Hot Springs on July 26.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Jose Pena helps a family by installing an AC unit in their home in Pacoima

Jose Peña installs an AC unit in a family’s home in Pacoima, where temperatures reached 94 degrees.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The sun sets over windmills on a day when temperatures reach 110 in Desert Hot Springs in July.

The sun sets over windmills as seen along Dillon Road on a day when temperatures reached 110 degrees in Desert Hot Springs.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Allan Wanner, on oxygen, tries to stay cool by drinking melted ice cubes from a plastic container.

Allan Wanner, who lives alone in Desert Hot Springs, tries to stay cool in 100-degree weather by drinking melted ice cubes in his trailer in May 2021. He still mourns the loss of a friend and neighbor who he suspects died from heat in his trailer.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

 Jorge Valerio, 44, looks at the hardhat that belonged to his father, who died last summer from heat stroke.

Jorge Valerio looks at the hard hat that belonged to his father, Jorge Valerio-Santiago, who died of heatstroke last summer.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

U.S. Marine veteran Kevin Murray  in his car next to his dog Buddy in Skid Row as temperatures reach 93 degrees.

U.S. Marine veteran Kevin Murray lies in his car next to his dog Buddy in skid row as temperatures reach 93 degrees on Aug. 12. He leaves both vehicle doors open to try to catch a cross breeze.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

 Firefighters treat a homeless woman gasping for air in front of the L.A. Mission along 5th Street on skid row.

On downtown L.A. 5th Street, firefighters treat a woman gasping for air in the 90-degree weather.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Kylian Lopez, 2, cools off in a laundry basket filled with water under the watchful eye of his mother Jocelyn Lopez.

Kylian Lopez, 2, cools off in a laundry basket filled with water with his mother, Jocelyn Lopez, off camera, as the temperature rises to 96 degrees in Pacoima.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A man cools down in the splash pad area of the North Hollywood Pool on another scorching day.

A man cools down in the splash pad area of the North Hollywood Pool on a day in June when the temperature reached 89 degrees.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A man that goes by the nickmane Popcorn, 68, rides his bike down Dillon Road in Desert Hot Springs .

A man who goes by the nickname Popcorn rides his bike down Dillon Road. Popcorn, 68, said he was leaving his home in Borrego Springs and heading to Washington state, where summers are cooler. “I want to get out of this heat for the summer,” he said.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Eduardo Armenta, with North East Trees, plants a tree in the Imperial Gardens public housing in Watts.

Eduardo Armenta, with North East Trees, plants a tree in the Imperial Gardens public housing in Watts. The group hopes the trees eventually bring more shade for residents and to reduce heat in the neighborhood.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Felisa Benitez, 86, wipes the sweat from her brow while taking a break from cleaning her stand-up electrical fan.

Felisa Benitez, 86, uses only a fan to cool herself, even though she has an AC unit in her place.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Men play basketball in San Pedro as the sun sets.

Men play basketball in San Pedro as the sun sets.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

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