Saturday, July 20, 2024

An ongoing heat wave in the U.S. is breaking new records and causing deaths in the West

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A long heat wave that shattered previous records across the United States continued Sunday, scorching parts of the West. Dangerous temperature It caused the death of a motorcyclist in Death Valley and held the East in its hot and humid grip.

An extreme heat warning — the National Weather Service’s highest warning — is in effect for about 36 million people, or about 10% of the population, NWS meteorologist Brian Jackson said. Dozens of places in the West and Pacific Northwest have tied or broken previous heat records.

Many parts of Northern California exceeded 110 degrees (43.3 C), with the city of Redding topping out at 119 (48.3 C). Phoenix set a new daily record for warmest low temperature on Sunday: It never fell below 92 F (33.3 C).

High temperatures of 128 F (53.3 C) were recorded Saturday and Sunday at Death Valley National Park in eastern California, where one visitor died Saturday of heat exposure and another person was hospitalized, officials said.

The two visitors were among a group of six motorcyclists who rode through the Badwater Basin area amid scorching weather, the park said in a statement.

The deceased person has not been identified. The other motorcyclist was taken to a Las Vegas hospital with “severe heat illness.” Because of the high temperatures, emergency medical helicopters were unable to respond because aircraft typically cannot fly safely above 120 F (48.8 F), officials said.

Four other members of the party were treated at the scene.

“While this is an exciting time to experience the potential world-record temperatures in Death Valley, we encourage visitors to choose their activities carefully, avoiding long periods of time outside of an air-conditioned vehicle or building when temperatures are high,” he said. Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds.

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Officials warned that heat illness and injury are cumulative and can develop over a day or days.

“Due to the high ambient air temperature not being able to cool down while riding, not only is experiencing Death Valley by motorcycle a challenge in this hot weather, but the heavy protective gear required to be worn to minimize injuries in the event of an accident is more challenging,” the park report said.

Death Valley visitor Chris Kinzel said being there on record-breaking day “was like Christmas Day for me.” Kinzel said he and his wife usually visit the park in the winter, when it’s still warm — but that’s nothing compared to being one of the hottest places on Earth in July.

“Death Valley in the summer has always been a bucket list thing for me. For most of my life, I’ve wanted to come here in the summer,” said Kinsel, who visited Death Valley’s Badwater Basin area from Las Vegas.

Kinzel said she plans to go to the park’s visitor center to take her photo next to a digital sign that displays the current temperature.

Across the desert in Nevada, Natasha Ivory took four of her eight children to a water park in Mount Charleston outside Las Vegas, which hit a record high of 120 F (48.8 C) on Sunday.

“They’re having a ball,” Ivory told Fox 5 Vegas. “I’m going to get wet too. It is very hot.

Jill Workman Anderson was also at Mount Charleston, taking her dog for a short walk and enjoying the view.

“We can look out and see the desert,” she said. “It was 30 degrees cooler than where we live in northwest Las Vegas.”

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Triple-digit temperatures were common across Oregon, where several records were broken — including in Salem, where it hit 103 F (39.4 C) on Sunday, after reaching 99 F (37.2 C) in 1960. Temperatures above 100 degrees were widespread along the coast, although no extreme heat advisories were in effect Sunday in the more humid East.

“Drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sun, and visit relatives and neighbors,” read a weather service advisory for the Baltimore area. “Small children and pets should not be left unattended in vehicles under any circumstances.”

Heat records were shattered across the Southwest

Rare heat advisories extended to higher elevations around Lake Tahoe on the border of California and Nevada, with the weather service in Reno, Nevada, warning of “major heat hazard impacts even in the mountains.”

“How hot are we talking? Well, high temperatures across (western Nevada and northeastern California) will not drop below 100 degrees (37.8 C) until late next week,” the service posted online. “Unfortunately, there won’t be much relief overnight.”

Much higher highs are in the near term forecast, including 130 F (54.4 C) by midweek at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, California. The hottest temperature officially recorded on Earth was 134 F (56.67 C) in July 1913 at Death Valley, although some experts dispute that measurement and say the actual record was 130 F (54.4 C), set in July 2021.

Tracey Housley, a native of Manchester, England, said she decided to drive to Death Valley from her hotel in Las Vegas after hearing on the radio that temperatures could reach record levels.

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“We thought, let’s be there for it,” Housley said Sunday. “Let’s go experience it.”

Deaths are starting to mount

Arizona’s Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, has had at least 13 confirmed heat-related deaths this year and more than 160 suspected heat-related deaths that are still under investigation, according to a recent report.

That does not include the death of a 10-year-old boy who suffered a “heat-related medical event” while hiking with his family in South Mountain Park and Preserve last week in Phoenix, police said.

California wildfires are fueled by low humidity and high temperatures

In California, crews worked in extremely hot conditions to battle a series of wildfires raging across the state.

In Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles, the growing Lake Fire burned 25 square miles (66.5 square kilometers) of dry grass, brush and trees after it broke out Friday. There is no restriction till Sunday. The fire was burning through mostly uninhabited forest, but some rural homes were under evacuation orders.


This story has been edited to correct the spelling of Redding, California, and to correct that the motorcyclist died on Saturday, not Sunday.


Beck reported from Omaha, Nebraska. Associated Press videographer Ty O’Neill in Death Valley National Park and Phoenix writer Walter Perry contributed to this report.

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