PHOENIX (AP) - Tigers at the Phoenix Zoo are getting frozen fish
snacks. Temporary cooling stations are popping up to welcome the
homeless and elderly. And airlines are monitoring the soaring
temperatures to make sure it's safe to fly as the western U.S. falls
into the grip of a dangerous heat wave.
high-pressure system settling over the region Friday and through the
weekend will bring extreme temperatures to the already blazing
Southwest. Notoriously hot Death Valley, Calif., is forecast to reach
129 degrees, not far off its world-record high of 134 logged nearly a
"We came to this special place to experience it
at its best," said Hermenn Muessner with a smile. Muessner, from the
Alpine country of Lichtenstein, planned to continue his tour through the
Southwest with a stop at Yosemite National Park, where temperatures
were expected in the high-80s.
By 9:30 a.m., the temperature
had already climbed to 110 in the shade outside a pro shop at a Death
Valley golf course. Tourists appeared to move in slow motion in the
intense heat. They took photos of the landscape or of themselves in
front of national park signs, and then got back into their
When he arrived the night before,
Juergen Bausch saw that the car's thermometer said the temperature
outside was at 118. He took a photo of the reading and sent it to his
friends back home in Germany. And then he got out of the car.
"Wow what a surprise," he said.
National Weather Service predicts Phoenix could reach 118 on Friday,
while Las Vegas could see the same temperature over the weekend.
Temperatures are expected to soar across Utah and into parts of Wyoming
and Idaho, where forecasters are calling for triple-digit heat in the
Cities in Washington state better known for cool,
rainy weather should break the 90s next week, while northern Utah -
marketed as having "the greatest snow on Earth" - is expected to hit
"This is the hottest time of the year but the
temperatures that we'll be looking at for Friday through Sunday, they'll
be toward the top," said National Weather Service meteorologist Mark
O'Malley, adding, "It's going to be baking hot across much of the entire
Jennifer Smith, a spokeswoman for the National
Interagency Fire Center based in Idaho, said crews are especially
worried about wildfires igniting in the Four Corners region where the
borders of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona intersect.
of the strongest parts of the high pressure system are expected to be
parked over the area through the weekend, where forecasters are calling
for lightning but little to no precipitation, Smith said.
say that the jet stream, the river of air that dictates weather
patterns, has been more erratic in the past few years. It's responsible
for weather systems getting stuck, like the current heat wave.
Scientists disagree on whether global warming is the cause of the jet
The hottest cities are taking precautions
to protect vulnerable residents. Police are pleading with drivers not to
leave children or pets in vehicles, and temporary cooling stations are
being put up to shelter homeless people and the elderly on fixed incomes
who hesitate to use air conditioning.
Officials said extra
personnel have been added to the U.S. Border Patrol's Search, Trauma,
and Rescue unit as people illegally crossing the border from Mexico into
Arizona could succumb to exhaustion and dehydration. At least seven
people have been found dead in the last week in Arizona after falling
victim to the desert's brutal heat.
Even airlines are watching the mercury for any signs that temperatures could deter operations.
June 1990, when Phoenix hit 122 degrees, several airlines, including
America West, which later merged with US Airways, were forced to cease
flights for several hours because the planes didn't have the data needed
to know how they would fly in temperatures above 120 degrees.
Airways spokesman Todd Lehmacher said the airline's fleet of Boeings
can now fly up to 126 degrees, and up to 127 degrees for the Airbus
But the company's smaller express planes flying out of
the Phoenix area may be delayed if the temperature tops 118 because as
the air heats up, it becomes less dense and changes liftoff conditions.
hotter is it, your performance is degraded," Lehmacher said. "We're
monitoring this very closely to see what the temperatures do."
at Salt River Project, the Phoenix area's largest electricity provider,
also are closely monitoring usage in order to redirect energy in case
of a potential overload.
Company spokeswoman Scott Harelson
said he doesn't expect usage to get anywhere near SRP's record 6,663
megawatts consumed in August 2011.
"While it's hot, people
tend to leave town and some businesses aren't open, so that has a
tendency to mitigate demand and is why we typically don't set records on
weekends," Harelson said.
Meanwhile, over at the Phoenix
Zoo, animals from elephants to warthogs will be doused with hoses and
sprayed with sprinklers and misters throughout the weekend.
tigers will get frozen fish snacks while the lions can lounge on
concrete slabs cooled by internal water-filled pipes, said zoo
spokeswoman Linda Hardwick.
"And they'll all have plenty of
shade," she said. "The keepers will all just be very active looking for
any behavior changes, anything that would tip them off that an animal is
just getting too hot."
In Las Vegas, two Elvis impersonators
and a performer costumed as the iconic "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas"
sign said they still planned to keep up their routine of working the
tourist corridor in the broad daylight and turning in for the evenings,
"We'd much rather fight with the sun than fight with the drunk people," Elvis impersonator Cristian Morales said.
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