Record-breaking Western heat wave raises concerns about health, safety

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The record-breaking heat wave baking western states for the fifth straight day could be dire for people living in communities where the temperatures are soaring well over 100 degrees.

“This heat has an important effect on people and their health,” said Dr. Suganya Karuppana, chief medical director at the Valle del Sol community health clinics in Arizona, told The Associated Press.

People, not to mention plants and animals, need the air to cool down at night to help them recover from the stress of intense heat — it hit a record 117 degrees in Phoenix on Friday, the fourth day straight above 115, and no break expected Saturday, The Arizona Republic reported.

Health care professionals are even warning about burn injuries from hot asphalt, NPR reported. Sidewalks and even desert sand can also be dangerous.

Daily records also were set this week in the West, including a blazing 123 degrees in Palm Springs, California, on Thursday, matching the highest-ever temp in the desert city. It was 128 degrees in Death Valley, and the National Park Service was warning the thermometer could top 120 degrees again on Saturday. “Travel prepared to survive,” the warning said, recommending visitors avoid hiking in the park after 10 a.m., drink plenty of water and carry extra.

“Temperatures are expected to once again reach record-breaking highs across much of the region, with several records likely to fall on Saturday,” the National Weather Service said. “Well-above normal temperatures are expected across the region, with record-breaking highs expected over parts of California, Nevada, and Arizona.”

Californians are still under an alert to reduce energy usage in the hope the state will avoid the rolling power outages needed during last year’s heat waves. Las Vegas is under an “excessive heat warning,” with temps expected to reach 114 degrees, ABC affiliate KTNV reported.

Excessive heat is also blanketing most of Utah and Wyoming, along with Southern Montana, parts of Southern Oregon and Colorado. Many of these areas are also vulnerable to wildfires, especially since the heat is coming on top of long-term drought across the region.

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