The Southwest sweltered for another day, baking for a summer heat wave that has set records and prompted health warnings and strained power grids. The sweltering conditions will worsen over the weekend and continue into next week. Across a vast swath of the United States stretching from California to South Florida, over 100 million people are under excessive heat advisories, watches, and warnings.
A ridge of hot air, or “heat dome,” is blocking cooler air from reaching the region, forecasters say. The scorching temperatures will peak over the weekend and could be record-breaking in some areas, including Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and California.
Phoenix sweltered for the third straight Wednesday, with temperatures topping 110 degrees Fahrenheit. That is nearly 40 degrees above average for this time of year in the city. Temperatures in Death Valley are expected to be at or above 123 degrees, breaking the previous record of 119, set in 1913.
The heat has recently sparked an unusual number of death-related deaths, including one in Dallas, Texas. Officials blamed the weather for the death of a 66-year-old woman with underlying health problems. Other fatalities have been reported in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. A Texas county says it received the highest volume of 911 calls ever recorded in a single day as the extreme heat caused health issues.
As the heat sweltered, local governments issued emergency declarations and urged residents to take precautions. Some canceled outdoor events and urged citizens to stay indoors. In downtown Phoenix, fire officials handed out bright red cloth visors and hand fans to people as they went about their morning business. The city also distributed cooling neckerchiefs, the sleeveless tops that help keep the wearer cool in summer.
A massive heat advisory covers much of Arizona, including Grand Canyon National Park and Phoenix. It is accompanied by an excessive heat watch and warning in southern California, Nevada, and Utah. In Oregon, a heat warning is in effect for most states, including Portland.
Forecasters expect the extreme temperatures to break or threaten dozens of regional records. The heat is hazardous for older Americans, the very young, and those with chronic diseases. In addition to the soaring temperatures, the drought has contributed to wildfires in California and other western states.
In the Northeast, heavy rains turned streets in Vermont’s capital, Montpelier, into raging rivers and threatened to contaminate the city’s water supply. Floodwaters were threatening homes and businesses in other parts of the state.