Deadly Heatwave sweeps across the Southwest United States

A hazardous heat wave is posing a significant threat to a large portion of the Southwest, with potentially fatal temperatures in the triple digits. Cooling centers have extended their operating hours, and emergency rooms are bracing for an influx of patients suffering from heat-related illnesses.

The National Weather Service in Phoenix issued a warning, stating that near-record temperatures are expected over the weekend. They urged people to follow safety guidelines, including staying hydrated and checking on vulnerable individuals such as relatives and neighbors. Approximately 110 million people, about one-third of Americans, were under extreme heat advisories, watches, and warnings. Nevada, Arizona, and California were forecasted to experience worsening conditions, with temperatures in desert areas predicted to surpass 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.8 degrees Celsius) during the day and remaining above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius) overnight.

To provide relief, around 200 hydration stations and cooling centers have been set up in public spaces like libraries, churches, and businesses across the Phoenix area. In Las Vegas, emergency room doctors have reported an increase in heat-related cases as the heat wave threatens to break the city’s all-time record high temperature of 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47.2 degrees Celsius). In Albuquerque, New Mexico, splash pads and public pools extended their hours, while in Boise, Idaho, churches and nonprofit organizations offered water, sunscreen, and shelter.

Southern California experienced triple-digit temperatures in inland areas, and a persistent high-pressure ridge was expected to persist for a couple of weeks. Death Valley, California, recorded temperatures of 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius) by mid-Saturday afternoon, with forecasts suggesting it could reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4 degrees Celsius) over the weekend. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Death Valley was 134 degrees Fahrenheit (56.6 degrees Celsius) in July 1913.

Throughout the region, extreme heat poses a particular danger to older individuals, as their bodies may struggle to regulate temperature due to medications or underlying health conditions such as heart or kidney disease. The Southern Nevada Health District reported seven heat-related deaths since April 11, while a total of 152 deaths were attributed to heat-related causes last year.

Emergency rooms in Phoenix have already seen patients with severe sunburn, organ failure, and comatose conditions due to the extreme heat. Some individuals arrive with dangerously high body temperatures. Medical professionals have reported cases of patients with body temperatures reaching as high as 109 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat-related illnesses range from heatstroke, which can cause severe symptoms such as changes in mental status, coma, and seizures, to milder conditions like heat exhaustion, characterized by headaches, nausea, and dizziness.

Extreme heat is the deadliest weather-related event in the United States, claiming more lives than tornadoes or hurricanes combined. Federal agencies estimate that around 700 Americans die annually from extreme heat, but certain studies suggest the number could be as high as 1,300 deaths per year. Another study indicated that up to 20,000 deaths from 2008 to 2017 may have been linked to extreme heat.

Experts highlight the lack of awareness surrounding the dangers of heat waves as a contributing factor to their severity. Unlike other natural disasters, the consequences of extreme heat are not always visually apparent, making them more underestimated and potentially life-threatening, especially for certain demographics based on age, health conditions, and geographic location.

Shawn Gibbs, dean of Texas A&M University School of Public Health, emphasized that people often fail to connect heat waves with the injuries and loss of life they cause, leading to underestimation of their impact.


Sources

Dr. Muhammad Hussain
Dr. Muhammad Hussain

MD, Entrepeneur & Administrator. Six years of experience, working in the field of clinical care, medical administration, and healthcare business.

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