Southwestern US baking in extreme heat


Mon, Jul 01, 2013 - Page 7

A man died and another was hospitalized in serious condition on Saturday afternoon in heat-aggravated incidents as a heat wave blistered the sunbaked city of Las Vegas and elsewhere in the southwest.

Forecasters said temperatures in Las Vegas shot up to 46oC on Saturday afternoon, close to the city’s all-time record.

Phoenix, Arizona, hit 48.3oC by mid-afternoon, breaking the record for June 29 that was set in 1994.

Large swaths of California also sweltered under extreme heat warnings, which are expected to last into tomorrow night — and maybe even longer.

The forecast for Death Valley in California called for 53.3oC on Saturday, but it was a few degrees shy of that, according to unofficial reports from the US National Weather Service. Death Valley’s record high of 56.6oC, set a century ago, stands as the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth.

Las Vegas fire and rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski said paramedics responded to a home without air conditioning and found an elderly man dead. He said that while the man had medical issues, paramedics thought the heat worsened his condition.

Paramedics said another elderly man suffered a heat stroke when the air conditioner in his car went out for several hours while he was on a long road trip. He stopped in Las Vegas, called for help and was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

The heat wave has sent more than 40 other people to hospitals in Las Vegas since it arrived on Friday, but no life-threatening injuries were reported.

About 160km south in Baker, Nevada, the temperature peaked at an unofficial 47.22oC in the road tripper’s oasis in the Mojave Desert on Interstate 15. The strip of gas stations and restaurants between Los Angeles and Las Vegas is known by travelers for the giant thermometer that often notes temperatures in the triple digits.

Elsewhere in Southern California, Palm Springs peaked at 50oC, while the mercury in Lancaster hit 43.9oC — a record.

To make matters worse, US National Weather Service meteorologist John Dumas said cooling ocean breezes have not been traveling far enough inland overnight to fan the region’s valleys and deserts.

Cooling stations were set up to shelter the homeless and elderly people who cannot afford to run their air conditioners. In Phoenix, Joe Arpaio, the famously hard-nosed sheriff who runs a tent jail, planned to distribute ice cream and cold towels to inmates over the weekend.

Officials said personnel were added to the Border Patrol’s search-and-rescue unit because of the danger to people trying to slip across the Mexican border. At least seven people have been found dead in the past week in Arizona after falling victim to the brutal desert heat.

The heat was so punishing that rangers took up positions at trailheads at Lake Mead in Nevada to persuade people not to hike. Zookeepers in Phoenix hosed down the elephants and fed tigers frozen fish snacks. Dogs were at risk of burning their paws on scorched pavement, and airlines kept close watch on the heat for fear that it could cause flights to be delayed.