Records tumble as dangerous heat wave scorches the US West and beyond, with the worst yet to come

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Records tumbled across the West as a slow-moving heat wave of potentially historic proportions tightened its grip from the Pacific Northwest to Arizona on Friday, sending many residents in search of a cool haven from the dangerously high temperatures.

The Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S. were also sweltering, with oppressive heat and humidity expected to last through Saturday or beyond.

One of the hottest places on Earth, California’s Death Valley, shattered the previous record high for the date by 5 degrees — with the mercury climbing to 127 Fahrenheit (52.8 Celsius). The old mark of 122 (50 C) last was tied in 2013.

There was also a record high for the date of 118 (47.7 C) in Phoenix, where highs of 115 (46.1 C) or hotter were forecast through Wednesday. In Needles, California, where the National Weather Service has records dating to 1888, the high of 122 (50 C) edged the old mark of 121 (49.4 C) set in 2007. It was 124 (51.1) in Palm Springs, California.

The worst was yet to come across much of the West, with triple-digit temperatures likely — between 15 and 30 degrees (8 and 16 degrees Celsius) higher than average into next week, the National Weather Service said.

“The duration of this heat is also concerning as scorching above average temperatures are forecast to linger into next week,” the weather service in Phoenix said.

“This type of heat is dangerous to all without adequate cooling or hydration,” the service said Friday night in Las Vegas, which saw a high of 113 (45 C). “Numerous climate sites face high probabilities of breaking daily as well as all-time temperature records.”

In Gresham, Oregon, a Portland suburb that also tied a previous record, of 98 (36.6 C), Sherri Thompson, 52, was waiting in her car with her 14-year-old chihuahua Kiwani for a cooling center to open in the late morning.

Thompson has lived in her car for three years and can only run its air conditioning for about 20 minutes at a time or else the engine overheats. She said she has been hospitalized for heat stroke in the past.

“I have anxiety and panic attacks, and I get worried. I don’t want to have another heat stroke, and everything just triggers my anxiety a lot,” she said.

In Arizona’s Maricopa County, which encompasses Phoenix, there have been at least 13 confirmed heat-related deaths this year, along with more than 160 other suspected heat deaths are still under investigation, according to the county’s most recent report.

That does not include the death of a 10-year-old boy earlier this week in Phoenix who suffered a “heat-related medical event” while hiking with family at South Mountain Park and Preserve, according to police.

More extreme highs are in the near forecast, including 129 (53.8 degrees C) on Sunday at Furnace Creek in Death Valley National Park, and then around 130 (54.44 C) through Wednesday. The hottest temperature ever officially recorded on Earth was 134 degrees (56.67 C) in Death Valley in July 1913, though some experts dispute that measurement and say the real record was 130 recorded there in July 2021.

In Bullhead City, Arizona, the temperature had already reached 111 degrees (44.4 C) by 11 a.m. Friday on its way to a high of 118 (47.7 C)., and officials opened a pair of cooling centers for older adults and others.

“While this is a heat wave and we urge everyone to be cautious, we typically don’t see large attendance at our cooling centers unless there are power outages,” city spokesperson Mackenzie Covert said. “Our community is hot every summer. Our residents are kind of aware of it. They all tend to have working air conditioners.”

Figure skaters were out at the Reno Ice Rink in Nevada starting at 6 a.m. before the high topped out at 102 (38.8 C), general manager Kevin Sunde said. By the time the rink was to close at 10:30 p.m., Sunde expected nearly 300 people would have visited, with more parents hanging around to watch kids’ hockey practice than usual.

“They may not be getting on the ice themselves, but enjoying the cool,” Sunde said. “We’re the only sheet of ice within about an hour’s drive.”

In Norfolk, Virginia, Kristin Weisenborn set up her table at an outdoor farmer’s market to sell sourdough bread. The air was hovering just below the triple digits, but the 58% humidity made it feel more like 114 (46 C), according to the National Weather Service.

“It’s so hot, I just hope there’s a lot of people here that can buy my bread,” said Weisenborn, 42, whose Krid’s Crumbs bakery is based in Virginia Beach.

“Otherwise we’re just standing here sweating,” she said, adding that unsold bread will be donated or frozen.

Despite the sweltering air, people were already buying her loaves as the market got underway.

“It’s hot, but it’s July,” Weisenborn added. “Better than snow, I guess.”


Boone reported from Boise, Idaho, and Sonner reported from Reno, Nevada. Associated Press journalists Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina; John Antczak in Los Angeles; Rio Yamat in Las Vegas; Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia; and Ben Finely in Norfolk, Virginia, contributed.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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