The Commercial Appeal
HEAT WAVE OUT WEST
High at Death Valley could hit 129
A strong high-pressure system settling over the region is expected to bring more extreme temperatures to the blazing Southwest.
PHOENIX — Tigers at the Phoenix Zoo are getting frozen fish snacks. Temporary cooling stations are popping up to welcome the homeless and elderly. And airlines are monitoring the soaring temperatures to make sure it’s safe to fly as the western U.S. falls into the grip of a dangerous heat wave.
A strong high-pressure system settling over the region Friday and through the weekend will bring extreme temperatures to the already blazing Southwest. Notoriously hot Death Valley, Calif., is forecast to reach 129 degrees, not far off its world-record high of 134 logged nearly a century ago.
“We came to this special place to experience it at its best,” said Hermenn Muessner with a smile. Muessner, from the Alpine country of Lichtenstein, planned to continue his tour through the Southwest with a stop at Yosemite National Park, where temperatures were expected in the high-80s.
By 9:30 a.m., the temperature had already climbed to 110 in the shade outside a pro shop at a Death Valley golf course. Tourists appeared to move in slow motion in the intense heat. They took photos of the landscape or of themselves in front of national park signs, and then got back into their air-conditioned cars.
When he arrived the night before, Juergen Bausch saw that the car’s thermometer said the temperature outside was at 118. He took a photo of the reading and sent it to his friends back home in Germany. And then he got out of the car.
“Wow, what a surprise,” he said.
The National Weather Service predicts Phoenix could reach 118 on Friday, while Las Vegas could see the same temperature over the weekend. Temperatures are expected to soar across Utah and into parts of Wyoming and Idaho, where forecasters are calling for triple-digit heat in the Boise area.
Cities in Washington state better known for cool, rainy weather should break the 90s next week, while northern Utah — marketed as having “the greatest snow on Earth” — is expected to hit triple digits.
“This is the hottest time of the year but the temperatures that we’ll be looking at for Friday through Sunday, they’ll be toward the top,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Mark O’Malley, adding, “It’s going to be baking hot across much of the entire West.”
Jennifer Smith, a spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center based in Idaho, said crews are especially worried about wildfires.