On Monday, Phoenix hit a miserable mark: It was the first time since 1974 that it had 18 consecutive days of temperatures of 110 degrees or more. On Tuesday, he was poised to break that 49-year record and hit Day 19. The forecast was for a high of 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
People in the Southwest are used to brutal summers. Phoenix has had many days that have exceeded 100 degrees. Water sprayers spritz backyards, neighborhoods and playgrounds clearing in the midday sun. Monsoons usually pass through with cooling relief. But this stagnant summer is putting even the toughest to the test and putting many more people at risk.
« It’s just awful, » said Mazey Christensen, 20, a scooper at Sweet Republic, an ice cream shop in Phoenix.
Business in the store has been stable; on hot days, patrons tend to favor fruity flavors like watermelon sorbet and pineapple whip. But mostly they visit the store later in the day when the sun isn’t so hot.
Temperatures are « very extreme, » said Matt Salerno, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Phoenix. « We’re talking 10 degrees above where I normally am. » The city set another heat record on Monday: eight straight days where the nighttime temperature never dropped below 90 degrees.
The heat is especially brutal and unavoidable in the sprawling downtown Phoenix homeless encampment known as « The Zone. »
There are almost no trees and, this July, people have suffered second-degree burns after passing out or falling asleep on the hot asphalt and sidewalks.
There are few sources of running water other than donated bottles and portable washing stations. So a tap outside a shelter often has a line of people pouring water over their heads and filling five-gallon jugs to carry them back to their tents.
« It just sucks, » said Charles Outen, 49, who said he spent the summer hopping between chill-out centers during the day and sleeping in local churches at night to avoid the heat.
For many in the city and throughout the Southwest, the scorching temperatures have come with little relief: Monsoon season, which typically brings cooling thunderstorms to the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, is arriving later than usual.
And throughout the South, the heat has not only been extraordinarily intense, but also abnormally persistent.
This week, hot and humid conditions are expected to worsen along the Gulf Coast and throughout the Southeast, according to the weather service. across the country, about 100 million people are under heat warnings. And parts of the northern states, including Michigan, New York and Vermont, have also recently done so broken daily temperature records.
In Palm Springs, Calif., a desert resort town in Southern California, residents and tourists alike did their best to keep cool as temperatures soared to around 115 degrees.
Zach Stone, who lives in his car, says the heat inside the vehicle is unbearable. To find relief, he came to the Demuth Community Center, where he worked on a puzzle in the gym.
« They have bread and water and there are vending machines and bathrooms, and that’s a great convenience, » she said.
The heat can be especially brutal for those already dealing with medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, drug addiction and heart disease, said Dr. Jerald Moser, co-director of the emergency department at Tucson Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. , where the heat wave has brought more patients than usual. Temperatures are expected to exceed 110 degrees this week.
People without shelter or access to water are particularly at risk, Dr. Moser, adding that many of them end up in emergency rooms after being found incapacitated on the ground, sometimes with secondary burns from burning sidewalks.
“We see people pass out from full-blown heatstroke with a core body temperature of 104 degrees,” he said.
The persistent heat in the Southwest is the result of a high pressure system that has parked the region for weeks. This year has been particularly stubborn, delaying cooling storms.
The monsoon schedule varies from year to year, said Michael Crimmins, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson, so while it’s not yet clear whether climate change is to blame for the surge’s persistence of heat, it is most likely made the daily high temperatures even higher.
In Texas, this year’s heat has prompted cotton plants, especially in the southern parts of the state, to bloom early. « It’s ahead of its time, which isn’t good, » said Josh McGinty, an agronomist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service whose office in Corpus Christi is bordered by cotton fields.
Normally during this time of year, some bulbs would start to unfurl. Instead, Mr McGinty said, ‘all the fruit on the plant is open and it shouldn’t be. The heat is just killing the plants. At this point I’m in survival mode. But even that, he said, is better than last year, when the cotton crop suffered even more from the drought.
Further east, residents of the southern states are bracing themselves for a long stretch of hot, muggy days. Heat indices, which measure how hot it is outside taking into account both temperature and humidity, are expected to exceed 100 degrees this week in many cities including Jackson, Miss., Montgomery, Ala., and Tallahassee, Florida.
On Monday afternoon, Ralph Horton was driving east along Interstate 20 towards his home in Tallapoosa, Georgia, when he stopped in Vicksburg, Miss., for a break.
He was traveling from Texas where he had spent a few days. “Oh my god, it was hot,” she said.
He stood at a lookout overlooking the Mississippi River on Monday, anticipating a different kind of heat, the kind that is oppressive even when temperatures don’t reach triple digits. « The humidity is deadly in this part of the country, » said Mr. Horton.
The spot where it stood was already under a heat warning, with heat indexes projected to reach around 110 degrees on Tuesday.
The report was provided by Maggie Miles, Jack Healey and Sheryl Kornmann.