Scorching heat keeps grip on Southwest US as records tumble and more triple digits forecast

By SCOTT SONNER (Associated Press)
RENO, Nev. June 7, 2024 11:33 p.m.

The first heat wave of the year maintained its grip on the U.S. Southwest on Friday, a day after records tumbled across the region as temperatures soared past 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) from California to Arizona.

Although the official start of summer is still two weeks away, roughly half of Arizona and Nevada were under an excessive heat alert, which the National Weather Service extended until Friday evening. The alert was extended through Saturday in Las Vegas, where it's never been hotter this early in the year.

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Temperatures were expected to slowly retreat over the weekend, but will remain above normal into early next week.

After setting a new record of 111 F (43.8 C) on Thursday — which also equaled the earliest time of year the high reached at least 110 (43.3 C) — Las Vegas quickly broke another record early Friday afternoon as it hit 110 F (48.3 C) and surpassed the record high for the day set in 2013. And the National Weather Service office there said it could still get hotter before sundown.

In Phoenix, the new record high of 113 F (45 C) on Thursday leapfrogged the old mark of 111 F (44 C) set in 2016. Forecasters called the conditions “dangerously hot.”

“It’s so hot,” said 9-year-old Eleanor Wallace, who was visiting Phoenix from northern Utah on Thursday on a hike to celebrate her birthday with her mother, Megan Wallace.

There were no immediate reports of any heat-related deaths or serious injuries.

But at a campaign rally Thursday for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in Phoenix, 11 people fell ill from heat exhaustion by late afternoon and were taken to the hospital, where they were treated and released, fire officials said. Trump is scheduled to hold another rally Sunday at a park in Las Vegas, where the high that day is expected to reach 104 F (40 C).

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The National Weather Service expects mild cooling regionwide this weekend, but only by a few degrees. In central and southern Arizona and parts of southern Nevada, that will still mean triple-digit highs, even up to 110 F (43 C).

Several other areas of Arizona, California and Nevada also broke records Thursday by a degree or two, including Death Valley National Park with a record high for the date of 122 F (50 C), topping the 121 F (49.4 C) dating to 1996 in the desert that sits 194 feet (59 meters) below sea level near the California-Nevada line. Records there date to 1911.

The heat arrived weeks earlier than usual even in places farther to the north at higher elevations — areas typically a dozen degrees cooler. That includes Reno, where the normal high of 81 F (27 C) for this time of year soared to a record 98 F (37 C) on Thursday. Records there date to 1888.

On Thursday in Phoenix, the unseasonably hot weather did not prevent Oscar Tomasio of Cleveland, Ohio, from proposing to his girlfriend, Megan McCracken, as they sweltered to the peak of a trail on Camelback Mountain with 3 liters of water each in tow.

“It was a grueling hike,” Tomasio told The Associated Press. “It was extra hot, so we started extra early.”

“The views were beautiful. We didn’t make it quite to the top because she was a little nervous with the heat," he said. "So I proposed to her when the sun rose.”

McCracken confirmed they'd planned a sunrise hike and awoke about 5 a.m. in an effort to beat the heat and an impending closure of the trail.

“Probably not early enough,” she said.

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Associated Press writers Anita Snow and Ty O’Neil in Phoenix, Rio Yamat and Ken Ritter in Las Vegas, and MK Wildeman in Hartford, Connecticut, contributed to this report.

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