Millions in Southwest bracing for 'dangerous and deadly heatwave'

·Senior Editor
·3-min read

While temperature records this spring have already fallen across much of the country, a potentially deadly heat wave will take aim at the southwestern U.S. over the coming days, the National Weather Service is warning.

The latest heat wave will affect California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado over the next 24 hours before pushing east into Texas and states in the Central Plains.

Triple-digit temperatures are forecast across several states. Las Vegas is expected to hit 111 degrees F on Friday and Saturday. Highs in Phoenix will be even hotter, hitting 113 on Saturday and Sunday, and 114 on Monday. Austin, Texas, could reach 107 over the weekend and Dallas could hit 105 on Sunday.

In all, an estimated 22 million people are expected to be affected by the high temperatures over the next few days. On its website, the National Weather Service is advising residents of Phoenix to “avoid strenuous activity” and to “postpone/cancel outdoor activities” over the coming days.

The National Weather Service is warning residents of a
The National Weather Service is warning residents of a "dangerous and deadly heat wave" that will last through the weekend. (National Weather Service/Yahoo News)

The risks to human health from excessive heat are well documented. In 2020, Maricopa County, Ariz., where Phoenix is located, recorded a record 323 heat deaths for a given year. In 2021, a new record was set, with 338 heat-associated deaths reported by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

Heat waves also pose a danger to infrastructure.

“High heat can deteriorate and buckle pavement, warp or buckle railway tracks, and exceed certain types of aircraft operational limits,” the National Weather Service said on its website. “Electricity usage increases as air conditioning and refrigeration units in homes and offices work harder to keep indoors cooler. Transmission capacity across electric lines is reduced during high temperatures, further straining the electrical grid.”

A Phoenix area construction worker stays hydrated on the job
A Phoenix-area construction worker stays hydrated on the job. (Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

With triple-digit temperatures already gripping much of Texas, ERCOT, the state’s electrical utility, predicted on Tuesday that demand would reach record levels this week as residents crank up air conditioners in an effort to remain cool.

The U.S. is far from the only place on Earth to be dealing with excessive heat, and scientists have shown that the increased frequency and intensity of heat waves is a consequence of climate change. Portions of northwest and central India continue to bake, with temperatures in cities like Sri Ganganagar and Brahmapuri hitting 115.

In parts of Kuwait, meanwhile, the mercury topped 124 on Wednesday.

While residents of the Southwest might be relieved to hear that cooler temperatures are expected to arrive after this weekend, it's worrisome to realize that summer in the Northern Hemisphere doesn’t officially begin until June 22.

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