US Southwest swelters under dangerous heat wave, with new records on track


A dangerous heat wave threatened a wide swath of the Southwest with potentially deadly temperatures in the triple digits on Saturday as some cooling centers planned to extend their hours and emergency rooms prepared to treat more people will heat-related illnesses.
“Near record temperatures are expected this weekend!” the National Weather Service in Phoenix warned in a tweet, advising people to follow its heat safety tips such as drinking plenty of water and checking on family members and neighbours.
“Don’t be a statistic!” the weather service in Tucson advised, noting that extreme heat can be deadly. “It CAN happen to YOU!”
About 200 hydration stations distributing bottles of water and cooling centers where thousands of people can rest in air conditioned spaces opened Saturday morning in public spaces like libraries, churches and businesses around the Phoenix metro area. Charles Sanders spent Friday afternoon with his Chihuahua mix Babygirl at the air-conditioned Justa Center, which offers daytime services to older homeless people in downtown Phoenix. It’s also serving as a hydration station, distributing free bottles of water to the public.
Because of funding and staffing limitations, the center can only stay open until 5:30 p.m., so Sanders, a 59-year-old who uses a wheelchair, has spent the sweltering nights with his pet in a tattered tent behind the building.
““I’ve been here for four summers now and it’s the worst so far,” said Sanders, a former welder originally from Denver. David Hondula, chief heat officer for the City of Phoenix, said Friday that because of the health risks some centers were extending hours that are sometimes abbreviated because of limited volunteers and money.
“This weekend there will be some of the most serious and hot conditions we’ve ever seen,” said Hondula.
He said just one location, the Brian Garcia Welcome Center for homeless people in downtown Phoenix, planned to be open 24 hours and direct people to shelters and other air conditioned spaces for the night. During especially hot spells in some past years, the Phoenix Convention Center has opened as a nighttime cooling center, but Hondula said he had not heard of that possibility this year. Stacy Champion, an advocate for homeless people in Phoenix, took to Twitter this week to criticize the lack of nighttime cooling spaces for unsheltered individuals, saying they are “out of luck” if they have no place to go. In Las Vegas, casinos offered respite from the heat for many. Air-conditioned libraries, police station lobbies and other places from Texas to California planned to be open to the public to offer relief at least for part of the day.