• Fri. Dec 1st, 2023
Summer-tested Phoenix braves the relentless wave of intense heat

Michael Shields has worked at Phoenix-area swimming pools for years, enough time to develop a strategy for surviving the brutal heat that hits this Arizona desert city every summer.

He usually wakes up at 4 a.m., puts on protective clothing, fills up on electrolyte drinks and slathers his hands and face in sunscreen. Prepared to face the inferno, he arrives at his first customer’s home before dawn, when the temperature is in the mid-90s Fahrenheit. It’s no wonder that here in the summer there are days when the mercury soars above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). But over the past two weeks, the mercury has reached 110 degrees F (43 C) or higher every afternoon, forecasters say, a streak of extreme temperatures that will last into next week and break Phoenix’s record of 18 consecutive days set in 1974.

Temperatures are expected to reach 115 F (46 C) on Saturday and 116 (47 C) on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. It’s a heat wave that’s given pause to Phoenix residents, even summer-seasoned veterans like Shields, who says she avoids news reports about it.

“I don’t look at the weather,” Shields, 67, said. “I get in the mood that way.” Climate Check, a climate-focused real estate analysis group, reported that between 1985 and 2005, Phoenix experienced seven days a year above 109 F (43 C). By 2050, they estimate, Phoenix residents will see an average of 44 days a year at those temperatures.

Heat-related deaths in Phoenix’s Maricopa County have increased over the past few years, rising from 338 in 2021 to 425 last year. So far in 2023, there have been 12 heat-related deaths, and 55 are still under investigation. As the latest heat wave progresses, emergency service workers and government offices focused on helping the city cope with the heat have distributed bottled water to homeless people and encouraged them to seek shelter at several public cooling stations.

Because the area doesn’t typically cool down at night, some cooling stations are extending their hours, said David Hondula, who directs the city’s Office of Heat Response and Mitigation. This summer, he said, the city has doubled the number of volunteers handing out water, hats and sunscreen. As the heat worsens the lack of shade trees, the city plans to offer grants to help people plant them.

Park closures Close hiking trails on nearby Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountain during the hottest hours of the day. Phoenix Parks and Recreation spokesman Adam Waltz said temperatures could reach 130 or 140 degrees (54 or 60 C) on unshaded parts of the trails as the sun beats down and heat rises from the ground.

Children’s outdoor sports are mostly already over because of the punishing summer, Waltz said, ending in June and starting again in September. Despite the trend toward more hot days, Phoenix residents tend to recover from the heat, he said. They are used to dealing with it.

But the long-term warming trend — with uncooling nights and heat-trapping asphalt and concrete helping to raise temperatures — is worrisome. “People outside of Phoenix see 113 or 114 and gasp,” Waltz said. “We usually cover around 118 or 119. But it’s too hot and dangerous.”

“It’s unusual for the heat dome overhead to spread across an area of ​​the U.S. from Oregon to the West Coast and the Southwest, including Texas and Alabama,” said Zack Taylor, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center. College Park, Maryland.

A dome of high-pressure air sits over the affected area and deflects any rain or storms that could bring relief to the 100 million people under heat warnings and advisories, Taylor said. Phoenix gets some of its worst because the air mass is concentrated in the southwest.

“It’s anchored there for days and days,” Taylor said. “It’s not your typical summer heat.” After reaching 115 F (46 C) on Saturday and 116 (47 C) on Sunday, temperatures will remain above 110 F (43 C) into next week, the weather service said.

Las Vegas is expected to reach 115 F on Saturday and 118 F (47 C) on Sunday; Death Valley could reach 127 (53 C) on Saturday and 130 (54 C) on Sunday, the agency said. Outside Phoenix, Mesa, on Friday, science intern Emily Luberto donned long sleeves, pants and hiking boots to collect soil samples for a project studying a disease known as valley fever.

Based at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, her team usually hits the road at 8 a.m. and arrives in Mesa about 2-1/2 hours later. This week, they started at 6 a.m., hoping to beat the heat a bit. But by 8:30 AM, the temperature was over 100 (38 C). Heat from the sun isn’t the only thing that’s harmful. Asphalt temperatures can reach 160 degrees F (71 C) in the summer, the Arizona Humane Society wrote on its blog.

The sidewalks and streets are so hot that dog walker Cooper Burton doesn’t take the animals out after 9 a.m. “We don’t want their hands burning,” he said.

(This story has not been edited by DavidDiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

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