LAS VEGAS (AP) – Visitors to Las Vegas disembarked briefly to take photos on Friday and were hit by blast furnace air. But most will vacation in a very different climate — in casinos, where the cool air conditioning may require a light sweater.
Meanwhile, paramedics saw a different world as dehydrated construction workers, passed out elderly residents and others suffered from a torrid heatwave that threatened to shatter the city’s record 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47.2 degrees Celsius) this weekend.
Few places in the scorching Southwest exemplify the surreal contrast between indoor and outdoor life quite like Las Vegas, a neon-lit city teeming with resorts, casinos, swimming pools, indoor nightclubs and shopping. Tens of millions others on the other side California and in the Southwest were also looking for ways to stay cool and protected from the dangers of extreme heat.
“We’ve been talking about this heat wave for a week now, and now it’s entering its most intense phase,” the National Weather Service wrote on Friday.
Almost a third of Americans were under extreme heat warnings, surveillance and alerts. The blistering heatwave was forecast to worsen this weekend in Nevada, Arizona and California, where temperatures in the desert will soar to over 48.8 degrees Celsius at times during the day and stay above 32.2 degrees Celsius overnight.
Sergio Cajamarca, his family and their dog Max were among those who lined up in front of the city’s iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign to pose for photos. The temperature exceeded 100 F (37.8 C) before noon.
“I like the city, especially at night. It’s just the heat,” said Cajamarca, 46, an electrician from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
His daughter Kathy Zhagui, 20, offered her prescription for relief: “Probably just water, ice, stay inside.”
Meteorologists in Las Vegas warned people not to underestimate the danger. “This heat wave is NOT a typical desert heat due to its long duration, extreme daytime temperatures and warm nights. Everyone needs to take this heat seriously, including those who live in the desert,” Las Vegas’ National Weather Service said in a tweet.
Phoenix marked its 15th straight day of temperatures of 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius) or higher in the city on Friday. By late afternoon, the city hit 116 degrees Fahrenheit (46.6 degrees Celsius), on track to surpass the longest recorded hot spell. The record is 18 days, recorded in 1974.
“This weekend will see some of the most severe and hottest conditions we’ve seen,” said David Hondula, the city’s chief heat officer. “I think it’s time for maximum vigilance in the community.”
The heat was expected to continue well into the next week as a high-pressure dome moves west from Texas.
“We get a lot of heat-related illnesses now, a lot of dehydration, heat exhaustion,” said Dr. Ashkan Morim, who works in the emergency room at Dignity Health Siena Hospital in suburban Henderson.
Morim said he treated tourists this week who had been drinking by the pool for too long and were severely dehydrated; a stranded hiker who needed gallons of fluids to regain his strength; and a man in his 70s who fell and was confined to his home for seven hours until help arrived. The man left the home thermostat set at 80°F (26.7°C) because he was concerned about his electric bills with the air conditioning running constantly to counteract the high nighttime temperatures.
Regional health authorities in Las Vegas have introduced a new one Database Thursday to report “heat-related” and “heat-related” deaths in the city and surrounding Clark County from April through October.
According to the Southern Nevada Health District, seven people have died since April 11, and a total of 152 deaths over the past year have been determined to be heat-related.
In addition to casinos, air-conditioned public libraries, police station lobbies, and other locations from Texas to California should also be open to the public to provide relief for at least part of the day. In Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, the wading pools are open for extended periods and many public pools offer free entry. In Boise, Idaho, churches and other nonprofit groups provided water, sunscreen, and shelter.
Closer to the Pacific coast, temperatures were less severe but still made for a sweaty day at the Los Angeles-area picket lines, joined by actors and screenwriters Strikes against producers.
In Sacramento, the California State Fair began with organizers canceling scheduled horse races due to animal safety concerns.
Employers have been reminded that workers working outdoors must be given water, shade and regular breaks to cool off.
Pet owners were asked to keep most of their animals indoors. “Dogs are more prone to heat stroke and can literally die in minutes. Please leave them at home in the air conditioner,” said David Szymanski, park manager for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, in a statement.
Meanwhile, wildfire season increased amid hot, dry conditions, and a string of fires broke out across California this week, Natural Resources Agency secretary Wade Crowfoot said at a media briefing.
Global Climate Change “Charges” heat waves, Crowfoot added.
Firefighters in Riverside County, southeast of Los Angeles, were on the scene fighting several bush fires That started on Friday afternoon.
Stefan Gligorevic, a software engineer from Lancaster, Pennsylvania visiting Las Vegas for the first time, said he plans to stay hydrated and not let it ruin his vacation.
“Cold beer and probably a walk around the resorts. You use the shadows when you can,” said Gligorevic. “Yes, in any case.”
Watson reported from San Diego. Contributing to this report were AP reporters John Antczak in Los Angeles, Anita Snow in Phoenix, and Susan Montoya in Albuquerque, New Mexico.