Historic Heatwave Sweeps Across U.S., Breaking Records and Sparking Wildfires

Historic Heatwave

A relentless heatwave has gripped much of the United States, breaking records, igniting wildfires, and putting approximately 130 million people under severe heat advisories. The National Weather Service (NWS) has described the situation as “potentially historic,” with temperatures expected to soar well into next week.

As of Saturday, nearly 133 million people across the nation, predominantly in western states, are experiencing extreme heat warnings. Temperatures have been reported to be 15°F to 30°F above average, exacerbating the already critical situation. Jacob Asherman, a meteorologist with the NWS, stated that the oppressive heat and humidity are likely to push temperatures above 100°F (38°C) in regions such as the Pacific Northwest, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Northeast.

In Oregon, records were shattered on Friday in at least four cities. Medford experienced a high of 109°F, surpassing the previous record of 102°F set in 1926. North Bend saw a dramatic spike to 85°F, breaking the 1913 record of 74°F by 11 degrees. Asherman emphasized the abnormality of this event, which is expected to persist through midweek.

The heatwave has significantly impacted daily life and events. At the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Oregon, attendees sought relief from the scorching heat by staying hydrated, seeking shade, and using water misters. Angela Quiroz, 31, attended the festival with a wet scarf and hat, frequently applying sunscreen to mitigate the intense heat. “Definitely a difference between the shade and the sun,” Quiroz said. “But when you’re in the sun, it feels like you’re cooking.”

Las Vegas, notorious for its high temperatures, hit 100°F (37.7°C) by 10:30 AM on Saturday. By midday, the city tied its daily heat record at 115°F. Marko Boscovich, a visitor from Sparks, Nevada, found refuge in the air-conditioned casinos, stating, “But you know, after it hits triple digits, it’s about all the same to me.” The NWS in Las Vegas urgently reminded residents not to leave children or pets in hot vehicles.

In California’s Death Valley, known for its extreme temperatures, a new record was set on Friday at 127°F (53°C), breaking the previous record of 122°F. Forecasts predict even higher temperatures, potentially reaching 130°F by Wednesday. The region already holds the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth at 134°F (57°C) in July 1913, though this is disputed by some experts who recognize 130°F recorded in July 2021 as the real record.

Upper elevations, including around Lake Tahoe, are also under rare heat advisories. The NWS in Reno has warned of major heat risks even in the mountains, with temperatures expected to stay above 100°F (37.8°C) until next weekend. Phoenix, Arizona, hit a record high of 118°F on Saturday, with temperatures expected to remain above 115°F through Wednesday.

The heatwave has significantly heightened the risk of wildfires, with California experiencing more than two dozen active fires. The Thompson Fire in Butte County has consumed over 3,700 acres since July 2, forcing thousands to evacuate and injuring two firefighters. The French Fire near Yosemite National Park has burned over 900 acres since July 4 but is currently 25% contained.

In the eastern U.S., states like Maryland are also bracing for extreme heat. Baltimore is under an excessive heat warning with heat index values potentially reaching 110°F. The NWS advises residents to stay hydrated, remain in air-conditioned spaces, and check on vulnerable individuals. Arizona’s Maricopa County has reported at least 13 confirmed heat-related deaths this year, with over 160 more under investigation.

As this heatwave continues to intensify, residents across the nation are urged to take necessary precautions to stay safe and mitigate the impacts of this historic weather event.