Records break as dangerous heat wave ravages American West and beyond, with worst yet to come

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

The Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S. were also scorching hot, with oppressive heat and humidity expected to continue through Saturday or longer.

One of the hottest places on Earth, Death Valley in California, broke the previous record for that date by 5 degrees — the mercury rose to 127 Fahrenheit (52.8 Celsius). The old record of 122 (50 C) 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 warmer were forecast through Wednesday. In Needles, California, where the National Weather Service has records going back to 1888, the high of 122 (50 C) surpassed the old record of 121 (49.4 C) set in 2007. It was 124 (51.1) in Palm Springs, California.

The worst was yet to come for much of the West, with temperatures likely to be 30 degrees or higher (between 15 and 30 degrees Celsius) above average over the next week, the National Weather Service said.

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

“This kind of heat is dangerous for anyone without adequate cooling and hydration,” the agency said Friday night in Las Vegas, where a high of 113 (45 C) was recorded. “Numerous climate locations have a strong chance of breaking both daily and all-time temperature records.”

In Gresham, Oregon, a suburb of Portland that also tied an earlier record of 98 (36.6 C), Sherri Thompson, 52, sat in her car with her 14-year-old Chihuahua, Kiwani, as she waited for a cooling center to open late that morning.

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

“I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, and I worry. I don’t want to get another heat stroke, and everything triggers my anxiety tremendously,” she said.

In Maricopa County, Arizona, which includes Phoenix, at least 13 confirmed heat-related deaths have been reported this year, and more than 160 other suspected heat-related 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 incident” while hiking with family at South Mountain Park and Preserve, police said.

More extreme temperatures are forecast for the near future, including 129 degrees (53.8 degrees C) on Sunday at Furnace Creek in Death Valley National Park, and then around 130 degrees (54.44 C) through Wednesday. The highest 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 110 degrees Fahrenheit by 11 a.m. Friday, but the high was 119 degrees Fahrenheit. Authorities opened a few cooling centers for the elderly and others.

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

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

“They may not go out on the ice themselves, but they enjoy the coolness,” Sunde said. “We’re the only ice field within an hour’s drive.”

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

“It’s so warm, I hope there are a lot of people who want to buy my bread,” said Weisenborn, 42, whose bakery Krid’s Crumbs is based in Virginia Beach.

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

Despite the oppressive heat, people bought all her bread when the market got going.

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


Boone reported from Boise, Idaho, and Sonner reported from Reno, Nevada. Associated Press reporters 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.

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