On Thursday, millions of people across Texas were preparing for a spell of punishing heat that officials said would likely last for days, break records and increase the risk of wildfires and heat-related illnesses.
More than 33 million people in Texas, as well as Florida and Louisiana, were on heat warning early Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Many of those affected were in south and east Texas, and some of the advisories were expected to remain in place until Friday evening.
Parts of Texas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth area, were expected to see heat index readings of 105 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit Thursday or Friday, the Weather Service said in a notice. An index of up to 119 degrees was possible in some southern countries, the agency said he said early Thursday. The heat index measures how hot it is outside, taking into account temperature and humidity.
Later this week or early next week, the heat index in South Texas and the West Gulf Coast could soar as high as 120 degrees, the agency said in a forecast. Some daily high-temperature records could fall, she added, and the weather could pose health risks for people who spend a lot of time outdoors or without air conditioning.
The Weather Service said parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas were also expected to experience critical fire time Thursday and Friday, indicating an above-average fire risk.
There was also heavy rain in the forecast for parts of Texas and the Southeastern United States. More than seven million people were under flood surveillance across the region early Thursday, mostly in Alabama, and there was a risk of tornadoes.
It’s not unusual for Texas officials to issue heat warnings this time of year, said Monte Oaks, a meteorologist at the Weather Service’s San Antonio office. They typically do so when high temperatures combine with other factors, including high humidity and westerly winds that blow warm air from high-elevation deserts, he added.
In this case, Mr. Oaks said, the humidity is high because Texas had a wetter and stormier spring than usual. That left parts of the state looking more lush than they normally do in June, he said. But it also means that warm soil « cooks a lot of moisture » and releases it into the air.
« We’re not off the charts, » he added, speaking on the phone late Wednesday evening. « We are normally warm after a long period of fairly mild weather during April and May. »
Electricity demand is expected to pick up in the state later this week due to the heat, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which handles about 90 percent of the state’s electricity load, said Wednesday evening. But there is enough supply to meet demand, the company added, and it doesn’t expect an « energy emergency. »
Global warming is making dangerously hot weather more common and more extreme on every continent.
In Texas and neighboring Mexico, heat levels expected over the next few days are at least five times more likely, according to one analysis Wednesday by Climate Central, a non-profit research collaboration of scientists and journalists.