Riverside County was withering under a punishing heat wave Friday, with temperatures soaring past the century mark before noon in desert communities.

An excessive heat warning went into effect at 11 a.m. for the Coachella Valley and the San Gorgonio Pass near Banning, with high temperatures of 110 to 118 degrees expected Friday afternoon. The warning will remain in effect until 9 p.m., during which low temperatures of 82 to 94 degrees are forecast.

Noontime desert temperatures included 118 degrees in Thermal, 116 degrees in Palm Springs and Palm Desert and 113 degrees in Indio, according to the National Weather Service.

The western half of the county is also under the excessive heat warning, with highs of 108 to 114 degrees forecast for the Inland Empire, including the cities of Riverside, San Bernardino, Ontario, Moreno Valley, Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga, and Corona. Low temperatures in the 70s were expected Friday evening.

At noon, the mercury had reached 112 degrees in Riverside, 109 degrees in Corona and Temecula, 107 degrees in Moreno Valley and 104 degrees in Murrieta.

The South Coast Air Management District warned that the heat could cause the air quality in the Inland Empire to reach unhealthy levels and urged residents, especially those with respiratory conditions, to refrain from outdoor exertion.

Air quality was listed as unhealthful for sensitive groups, which includes people with breathing problems, in the Coachella Valley, the Riverside area, Hemet and Lake Elsinore. The rest of the county’s air will be of moderate quality.

Forecasters said the elevated temperatures would “create a dangerous situation in which heat illnesses are possible.” Residents were advised to drink plenty of fluids and stay out of the sun if possible.

The NWS issued a reminder that “young children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles under any circumstances. This is especially true during warm or hot weather when car interiors can reach lethal temperatures in a matter of minutes.”

County health officials advised locals to take advantage of the 56 cooling centers that opened to the public this month and are available at no cost. A list of cooling centers can be found at www.capriverside.org.

Temperatures are expected to dip slightly starting Saturday, but remain well into the triple digits.

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