US heat wave breaks new records, causes deaths in West

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A prolonged heat wave that has already broken previous records in the U.S. continued Sunday, heating up parts of the West by dangerous temperatures which left a motorcyclist dead in Death Valley and held the East in its hot and humid grip.

An extreme heat warning — the highest alert issued by the National Weather Service — was in effect for about 36 million people, or about 10% of the population, NWS meteorologist Bryan Jackson said. Dozens of locations in the West and Pacific Northwest tied or broke previous heat records.

Many areas of Northern California saw temperatures exceed 110 degrees (43.3 C), with the city of Redding hitting a record high of 119 (48.3 C). Phoenix set a new daily record for warmest minimum temperature on Sunday, never dipping below 92 F (33.3 C).

A high temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded Saturday and Sunday at Death Valley National Park in Eastern California. One visitor died Saturday from the heat and another person was hospitalized, officials said.

The two visitors were part of a group of six motorcyclists riding through the Badwater Basin area during the scorching weather, the park said in a statement.

The person who died has not been identified. The other motorcyclist was taken to a Las Vegas hospital for “severe heat illness,” the statement said. Due to the high temperatures, emergency medical helicopters were unable to respond, as the aircraft generally cannot safely fly above 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.8 degrees Celsius), officials said.

The other four members of the party were treated at the scene.

“While this is a very exciting time to experience potential world record temperatures in Death Valley, we encourage visitors to choose their activities carefully and avoid extended periods outside of an air-conditioned vehicle or building when temperatures are this high,” said Park Manager Mike Reynolds.

Officials warn that heat, illness and injuries are cumulative and can build up over a day or days.

“In addition to the inability to cool down while riding due to the high ambient temperatures, experiencing Death Valley on a motorcycle in such hot conditions is made even more difficult by the necessary heavy safety equipment that must be worn to minimize injury in the event of an accident,” the park’s statement said.

The rising temperatures didn’t faze Chris Kinsel, a visitor to Death Valley. He said it was “like Christmas for me” to be there on a record-breaking day. Kinsel said he and his wife typically visit the park in the winter, when it’s still warm enough — but that’s nothing compared to being in one of the hottest places on Earth in July.

“Death Valley in the summer has always been on my bucket list. I’ve wanted to go there in the summer for most of my life,” said Kinsel, who visited the Badwater Basin area of ​​Death Valley from Las Vegas.

Kinsel said he planned to go to the park’s visitor center to have his photo taken next to the digital sign showing the current temperature.

Across the Nevada desert, Natasha Ivory took four of her eight children to a water park in Mount Charleston, outside Las Vegas, where the temperature reached a record 120 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday.

“They’re having a ball,” Ivory told Fox5 Vegas. “I’m getting wet too. It’s too hot not to.”

Jill Workman Anderson was also at Mount Charleston, taking her dog for a short walk and enjoying the view.

“We can look out and see the desert,” she said. “It was also 30 degrees cooler than northwest Las Vegas, where we live.”

Temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) were common in Oregon, where several records were broken, including in Salem, where it reached 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius) on Sunday, surpassing the 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (37.2 degrees Celsius) high set in 1960. Temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) were common on the more humid East Coast, though no extreme heat warnings were in effect for Sunday.

“Drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sun, and stay in touch with family members and neighbors,” a weather advisory for the Baltimore area reads. “Young children and pets should not be left unattended in vehicles under any circumstances.”

Heat records broken in the southwest

Warnings for rare heat were even extended to higher elevations, including around Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada border. The weather service in Reno, Nevada, warned of “high heat risks, even in the mountains.”

“How hot is it? Well, high temperatures in (western Nevada and northeastern California) won’t be below 100 degrees (37.8 C) until next weekend,” the service reported online. “And unfortunately, there won’t be much relief tonight either.”

More extreme temperatures are forecast for the near future, including a possible 130°F (54.4°C) by midweek in Furnace Creek, California, in Death Valley. The highest temperature ever officially recorded on Earth was 134°F (56.67°C) in July 1913 in Death Valley, though some experts dispute that measurement and say the real record was 130°F (54.4°C), recorded there in July 2021.

Tracy Housley, a native of Manchester, England, said she decided to drive from her hotel in Las Vegas to Death Valley after hearing on the radio that temperatures could reach record highs.

“We just thought, let’s be out there,” Housley said Sunday. “Let’s go for the experience.”

The death toll is increasing

In Maricopa County, Arizona, which includes Phoenix, there have been at least 13 confirmed heat-related deaths this year, along with more than 160 other deaths suspected of being heat-related that are still under investigation, a recent report found.

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

California wildfires fueled by low humidity and high temperatures

In California, firefighters worked under horrific conditions to battle a series of wildfires raging across the state.

In Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles, the growing Lake Fire had burned more than 25 square miles (66.5 square kilometers) of dry grass, brush and timber after it broke out Friday. There was no containment Sunday. The fire was burning mostly in uninhabited wildland, but some rural homes were under evacuation orders.


This story has been edited to correct the spelling of Redding, California, and to reflect that the motorcyclist died Saturday, not Sunday.


Beck reported from Omaha, Nebraska. Associated Press videographer Ty O’Neil in Death Valley National Park and writer Walter Berry in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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