June 2016– PHOENIX (AZ) — In 120 degree temperatures, some airplanes might not takeoff. Power grids strain as the outside air keeps transmission lines from cooling. And for desert dwellers, a cold bottle of water and some shade can mean the difference between life and death. Parts of the U.S. Southwest, long accustomed to triple-digit temperatures, are preparing for a heat wave and, in Phoenix, officials are warning residents that the mercury may rise to 120, approaching Phoenix’s all-time record of 122.
“If we are going to 115 or 120, people need to realize they are really in a life-threatening situation if they don’t wet themselves down and drink water,” said Kevin Kalkbrenner, Phoenix’s director of homeland security and emergency management. Excessive heat contributed to 84 deaths in the state last year, officials said in Maricopa County, the state’s largest. Officials already confirmed this year’s first heat-related death – an elderly woman who died from heat exposure in her backyard in early June.
Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, is warning residents to watch for signs of heat illness: thirst, red skin, cramping, exhaustion and a lack of sweat. The agency is telling local officials to prepare for an influx of heat-related illnesses. The Phoenix parks department is posting extra rangers at hiking trails warning visitors of the dangers and asking them to be off the trails by noon.
Arizona’s power companies are prepping extra maintenance crews and securing extra power to keep the cool air blowing, said Jacob Tetlow, general manager of operations with Arizona Public Service Co. Airlines will be monitoring temperatures as excessive heat can throw off performance calculations preventing planes from taking off, said Polly Tracey, spokeswoman for American Airlines.
Record May heat, from Alaska to India and especially in the oceans, put the global average temperature at 60.17 degrees Fahrenheit (15.65 degrees Celsius), according to NOAA. That’s 1.57 degrees (.87 degrees Celsius) above the 20th-century average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. June is looking like it may be even worse. –ABC News