- The National Weather Service has announced that more than 40 million people in the western United States are subject to a heat advisory or excessive heat warning.
- Power grid operators in California and Texas are vigilant as areas hit triple-digit temperatures.
- Scientists say residents of the American West can expect more devastating heat waves in the years to come.
A long-lasting heat wave on Wednesday brought in more triple-digit temperatures, raising fears that such extreme weather could become the new normal in the western United States.
The National Weather Service, the U.S. government agency that provides weather forecasts and severe weather warnings, said on Wednesday that over 40 million people in the western region are under a heat advisory or excessive heat warning. At least 11 states have reported triple-digit temperatures, Accuweather confirmed.
But the lingering heat wave felt across the West isn’t going away anytime soon.
“No easy way to say that, so let’s get right to the point: it’s going to be * very * hot for * a long time * next week,” he added. The Salt Lake City National Weather Service said on Twitter Friday. “The whole area is going to be way above normal for the whole of next week. “
The weather service said residents “enduring the abnormal heat” are urged to stay hydrated and avoid extended periods of time outdoors if possible.
“With warm temperatures and dry soil in place, a high fire risk is in effect in parts of the Rockies and the Intermountain West,” the service wrote.
At least four states have issued evacuation orders for residents. Here’s a look at what will be hottest in the Western states and when it might end:
Arizona “flirts with records”
Temperatures in Phoenix reached 115 degrees on Tuesday, falling just below the daily record set in 1974, but marking the city’s highest temperature so far this year. Smoke from the wildfires from the nearby Telegraph Fire was cooling the temperature in the city.
But Phoenix is expected to hit 115 degrees on Wednesday and 117 the next two days, the National Weather Service said. Wednesday’s record was set at 115 degrees in 1974.
Phoenix’s low temperature on Wednesday morning was 90 degrees, which the National Weather Service said could set a new record for minimum heat if it holds until midnight. The current record was 86 degrees, set in 1988, according to the National Weather Service.
The excessive heat warning for the state is expected to end on Sunday evening.
“It’s just going to be really hot and we’ll be flirting with records every day,” meteorologist Matthew Hirsch said of the week ahead. “We don’t really see any cooling trends until the weekend is over, early next week.
“It’s not normal, it’s unusual to be this hot,” Hirsch continued, adding that normal high temperatures were generally around 105 to 106 degrees at this time of year. “It’s just a very hot, dry mass of air that has moved northward in the area and very high pressure with it.”
Meanwhile, southern Nevada will experience near-all-time high or all-time high until Saturday, the National Weather Service in Las Vegas said. Las Vegas on Wednesday broke an 80-year-old record on June 16, recording a high of 116. The previous high was 114, set in 1940, and the all-time high for Las Vegas is 117, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Scorching temperatures in California and Texas put network operators on alert
Palm Springs, Calif., Hit 117 degrees on Tuesday, appearing to break the June 15 temperature record set in 1961. It hit 120 on Wednesday, reports said.
As of Wednesday, the predicted high temperature in Death Valley, Calif., Was 124, just 10 degrees from the highest temperature recorded in the region and the world, 134 degrees Fahrenheit in 1913.
Record temperatures are also expected in northern California and the Central Valley. High temperatures 10 to 20 degrees above average will spread across central and northern California through Thursday, the National Weather Service said.
Kathleen Craft, shelter coordinator for the city of Livermore, Calif., Said temperatures hit 99 degrees shortly after noon, but only one woman showed up at the city’s cooling center.
“We anticipate that we will see more people tomorrow when a temperature of 108 degrees is forecast,” Craft said.
The California independent system operator, which monitors power lines across the state, issued a flexible alert for Thursday night asking residents to avoid energy use to reduce the strain on electricity from the State.
The forecast also showed enough reserves to cover demand Thursday night, but Californians should be vigilant in case a Flex Alert is needed as solar power production declines, he said.
In Texas, the Energy Reliability Council of Texas this week asked residents to conserve energy to avoid power outages. Already on Monday, power plants had suffered unexpected blackouts, losing enough power to darken 2.4 million homes.
“That it happened so early in June makes me nervous about what lies ahead, not only later this summer, but also in the years to come,” said Virginia Palacios, executive director of Commission Shift, a state advocacy group should do more to consolidate the network.
Many parts of Texas, such as Dallas and Austin, approached triple-digit temperatures on Tuesday.
Dry weather adds new challenge as forest fires rage in Montana, Wyoming
A reading of 107 degrees in Salt Lake City on Tuesday matched the warmest on record in the Utah capital, matching previous records recorded in July 2002 and July 1960.
Denver hit 101 degrees on Tuesday, breaking the 1952 and 1993 daily record of 97. The city also hit 100 degrees on Wednesday, making it the 14th time in Denver’s history that the city has had 100 degrees -consecutive days, and the first days again.
Also Tuesday, Billings, MT. exploded to 108 degrees, equaling the city’s hottest temperature on record in 2002. On Wednesday, Laramie hit a new high of 92, and Cheyenne tied at 93, previously set records in 2007 and 1940 respectively.
Temperatures in all of these states are expected to cool by the weekend. But in Montana, temperatures made it more difficult to fight forest fires that exploded in size, triggering evacuations and destroying an unknown number of homes. Strong winds fanned the flames and forced a forced landing of a firefighting helicopter.
At least 14 new fires have been reported in Montana and Wyoming since Tuesday.
Dry weather was also making itself felt in Idaho, where authorities are bracing for what could be a difficult wildfire season.
Nick Nauslar, a meteorologist at the National Interagency Fire Center, told state officials this week that nearly 80% of Idaho is in a drought and the rest will likely suffer in the coming months. He said Idaho had experienced its second driest spring in the past 126 years.
Expect more in the future, say experts
Scientists studying drought and climate change say people in the American West can expect to see the same thing in the years to come.
“Heat waves are getting worse in the west because the ground is so dry” because of the region’s mega-drought, said Park Williams, a climate and fire specialist at the University of California at Los Angeles who calculated that the soil in the western half of the country is the driest since 1895. “We could have two, three, four, five of these heat waves before summer is over.”
Contributor: Chelsea Curtis, Republic of Arizona; Bob Sechler, American statesman from Austin; The Associated Press.