Scorching heat affects millions in the US, breaking records and fueling wildfires

Scorching heat affects millions in the US, breaking records and fueling wildfires
Scorching heat affects millions in the US, breaking records and fueling wildfires

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A prolonged heat wave threatened an estimated 130 million people in the United States through the weekend and next week, breaking or tying records with dangerously high temperatures and expected to continue breaking records from coast to coast, forecasters said.

Ukiah, north of San Francisco, hit 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius) on Saturday, breaking the city’s record for that date and tying its all-time high for any day of the year. Livermore, east of San Francisco, hit 111 degrees Fahrenheit (43.8 degrees Celsius), breaking the daily high temperature record of 109 degrees Fahrenheit (42.7 degrees Celsius) set more than a century earlier in 1905.

Las Vegas tied its record of 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius) set in 2007; Phoenix hit 114 degrees Fahrenheit (45.5 degrees Celsius), just shy of the record of 116 degrees Fahrenheit (46.7 degrees Celsius) set in 1942.

The National Weather Service said it would extend an excessive heat warning for much of the southwestern United States through Friday.

“A dangerous and historic heat wave is just beginning in the area, with temperatures expected to peak between Sunday and Wednesday,” the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Las Vegas said in an updated report.

In Las Vegas, where the mercury hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 Celsius) at 10:30 a.m., Marko Boscovich said the best way to beat the heat was a seat at a slot machine with a cold beer inside an air-conditioned casino.

“But you know, when it hits triple digits, I don’t care anymore,” said Boscovich, who was visiting from Sparks, Nevada, to see Dead & Company perform at the Sphere on Saturday night. “They might play one of my favorites, ‘Cold Rain and Snow.’”

In the wettest parts of the country, temperatures could top 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) in parts of the Pacific Northwest, the central Atlantic Coast and the Northwest, said Jacob Asherman, a meteorologist with the NWS.

Heat records are broken in the Southwest

Temperature experts predicted temperatures would be near daily records in the region on most, if not all, days of the coming week. Highs in southern desert areas were expected to be between 115 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit (46.1 to 48.8 degrees Celsius).

Rare heat advisories were issued even in high-elevation areas such as around Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border, and the NWS office in Reno, Nevada, warned of “high heat hazard impacts, including in the mountains.”

The service said in an online post that highs in western Nevada and northeastern California were not expected to dip below 100 F (37.8 C) until next weekend, “and unfortunately, there won’t be much relief overnight either.”

Indeed, Reno recorded a high of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday, shattering the previous record of 38.3 degrees Celsius (101 degrees Fahrenheit).

More extreme highs were expected in the coming days, with a high of 129 degrees Fahrenheit (53.8 Celsius) on Sunday at Furnace Creek, California, in Death Valley National Park, and around 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4 Celsius) through Wednesday.

The highest temperature ever officially documented on Earth was 56.67 °C (134 °F) in July 1913 in Death Valley in eastern California, although some experts dispute that figure and say the actual record is 54.4 °C (130 °F) recorded there in July 2021.

The worst is yet to come in the West and the central Atlantic coast

Temperatures are likely to exceed 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) in the West, 8 to 16 degrees Celsius (15 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than average, during the coming week, according to the NWS.

The eastern United States was also bracing for more high temperatures. Baltimore and other parts of Maryland were under an excessive heat warning and wind chills could reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius), forecasters said.

“Drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sun and check on relatives and neighbors,” an NWS advisory for the Baltimore area said. “Small children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles under any circumstances.”

Deaths begin to rise

In Arizona’s Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, there have been at least 13 confirmed heat-related deaths this year, along with more than 160 deaths suspected to be heat-related and still under investigation, according to a recent report.

That doesn’t include the death of a 10-year-old boy in Phoenix last week who suffered a “heat-related medical episode” while hiking in the mountains with his family at South Mountain Park and Preserve, according to police.

California wildfires fueled by heat and low humidity

Firefighters have sent planes and helicopters to drop water or retardant on several fires in California.

In Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles, the Lake Fire has burned more than 19 square miles (49 square kilometers) of grass, brush and trees. Fire officials said the blaze was showing “extreme behavior” and had “high growth potential” given the high temperatures and low humidity.

Festival beats the heat with cool water and shade

At the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Oregon, music fans coped with the weather by drinking cold water, taking shelter in the shade or cooling off under water sprinklers. Organizers of the weekend’s festival also announced free air conditioning at a nearby hotel.

Angela Quiroz, 31, kept her hat and scarf wet and applied sunscreen.

“There is definitely a difference between shade and sun,” Quiroz said Friday. “But when you’re in the sun, it feels like you’re cooking.”

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Associated Press writer Julie Walker contributed from New York. Boone reported from Boise, Idaho, and Sonner from Reno, Nevada. Associated Press writers Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee; Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina; John Antczak in Los Angeles; Rio Yamat in Las Vegas; Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia; and Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia, contributed to this report.

 
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