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Wildfire fears grow as U.S. West heat wave spreads

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A pedestrian takes a bottle of water at a Salvation Army hydration station during a heatwave as temperatures hit 115-degrees, Tuesday, June 15, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D.
A pedestrian takes a bottle of water at a Salvation Army hydration station during a heatwave as temperatures hit 115-degrees, Tuesday, June 15, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Photo Gallery

PHOENIX — Dangerous, record-busting heat spread across the U.S. Southwest on Tuesday and into parts of Utah, Montana and Wyoming as a dome of high pressure hovered over a large swath of the region, pushing temperatures into the triple digits this week and intensifying the risk for wildfires amid a long-running drought.

Some of the highest temperatures were seen in bone-dry Arizona, where the National Weather Service forecast a record high of 117 degrees in Phoenix. The previous high for the date was 115 degrees, set in 1974.

“It is kind of early to see temperatures this high, that’s for sure,” said Marvin Percha, senior forecaster at the weather service’s Phoenix office.

Percha said the high pressure dome combined with the land’s lack of moisture caused by extreme drought has combined to create blistering heat expected throughout the entire week.

“What is unusual is the strength and the duration” of the high pressure system, he said.

The temperatures in Phoenix also could break records the rest of the week, with highs expected to reach 116 Wednesday and 118 Thursday and Friday.

Stations where people can get water and cool off in the shade opened across the Phoenix metro area at Salvation Army posts, city swimming pools, libraries and community centers. They will operate during the day amid the excessive heat warning declared by the weather service.

People were warned to stay inside, drink plenty of water and not leave children or pets unattended in vehicles.

The excessive heat stretched from southeast California across Arizona and Nevada and into New Mexico, where a high of 103 degrees Monday at Albuquerque’s airport set a record. It was expected to hit near that Tuesday.

Palmdale, in Southern California’s Mojave Desert, hit 107 degrees, breaking a record of 105 set in 1966.

“More records are at risk tomorrow,” the National Weather Service for Los Angeles tweeted.

Salt Lake City set a heat record for the second day in a row, hitting 107 degrees Tuesday to tie its hottest temperature ever recorded, the weather service said. On Monday, Utah’s capital reached 103 degrees to break a heat record for that date set nearly 50 years ago.

Some people cooled off at the Great Salt Lake outside Salt Lake City, floating in the water or playing along the shoreline.

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