The southwestern United States is experiencing an unprecedented and dangerous heatwave, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). This climatic phenomenon threatens the lives of thousands of people and has led authorities to take extraordinary measures to protect the population.
The National Weather Service in Phoenix has issued warnings of near-record temperatures for the weekend, urging people to follow heat safety recommendations. These include drinking plenty of water and caring for family members and neighbors, especially the most vulnerable.
Extreme heat can be deadly, and authorities are doing everything possible to prevent people from becoming statistics. In the metropolis of Phoenix, around 200 hydration stations and cooling centers have been opened in public spaces such as libraries, churches, and businesses. These places offer bottles of water and an air-conditioned space where people can rest.
David Hondula, Phoenix’s heat director, has expressed concern about the extreme conditions and announced that some centers will extend their hours due to health risks. However, the limitation of volunteers and funds sometimes hinders this expansion.
Las Vegas, known for its casinos, also offers respite from the heat. Air-conditioned libraries, police station lobbies, and other places in Texas and California are open to the public to offer relief. In Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico, many public pools offer free admission.
Emergency room doctors in Las Vegas have been treating more people for heat-related illnesses, as the heatwave threatens to break the city’s historical record of 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47.2 degrees Celsius) this weekend.
Dr. Ashkan Morim, who works in the emergency room of Dignity Health Siena Hospital in Henderson, Nevada, has treated tourists who have severely dehydrated after spending too much time drinking by the pools, as well as hikers who needed liters of fluids to regain their strength.
It is estimated that around a third of Americans are under extreme heat warnings, alerts, and advisories. The heatwave is expected to worsen this weekend in Nevada, Arizona, and California, with temperatures that could exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.8 degrees Celsius) during the day.
Warm and dry conditions have sparked a series of fires in Southern California. Firefighters are battling three separate wildfires that started on Friday afternoon amid the hottest weather of the year so far.
Phoenix has recorded its fifteenth consecutive day with temperatures of 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius) or higher, which could surpass the record of 18 days recorded in 1974.
Health authorities in Las Vegas have launched a new database to report “heat-caused” and “heat-related” deaths. The Southern Nevada Health District reported that seven people have died since April 11, and it was determined that a total of 152 deaths last year were related to the heat.
In Maricopa County, Arizona, where Phoenix is located, 12 heat-related deaths have been confirmed since April, half of them homeless people. Another 55 deaths are under investigation.
The heat is expected to continue until next week, raising concerns about the safety of people and animals. In Sacramento, the California State Fair canceled horse racing events due to concern for the animals’ safety. Pet owners throughout the southwest are urged to keep their animals mostly indoors.
The unprecedented heatwave in the southwestern United States is a reminder of the importance of preparation and prevention in times of extreme weather conditions. Authorities and citizens must work together to minimize risks and protect the most vulnerable people.