Thursday 14 December 2017

One dead and dozens sick as temperatures hit 51C in blistering US heatwave

Nine-year-old Gavyn Slykhuis cools off in the spray of a fountain at the Red Ridge Park kids water park in Las Vegas
Nine-year-old Gavyn Slykhuis cools off in the spray of a fountain at the Red Ridge Park kids water park in Las Vegas

CITIES and towns across the western United States took emergency measures on Saturday to cope with a heatwave, after dozens of people were taken ill and the region sweltered in dangerous triple-digit temperatures.

At least one heat-related death was reported by authorities in Las Vegas, where a man in his 80s was found dead inside a house without air-conditioning.


The victim suffered from other medical issues, but paramedics suspect heat was a contributing factor in his death, Tim Szymanski, Las Vegas Fire and Rescue spokesman said.


Extreme temperatures enveloped most of California, Nevada and parts of southern Arizona as a large high-pressure system continued to trap hot air across the area, National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Lericos explained.


Lericos said that the stifling conditions are likely to continue throughout the weekend and linger into the next week. “It involves pretty much the entire West Coast at this point,” he added.


Corpus Christi hit 107F, or 42C, as triple-digit temperatures extended as far east as Texas. Salt Lake City saw highs of 41C.


Many people have been hospitalized or treated for dehydration, exhaustion and heat stroke in Los Angeles County, the country fire department said on Saturday.


During an outdoor concert in Las Vegas on Friday, 34 people were taken to the hospital, and another 170 suffered nausea and fatigue from the heat.


The annual Running with the Devil Marathon scheduled for Saturday in the Mojave Desert outside of Las Vegas, a competition in which runners are deliberately “challenged to contend with high heat,” was cancelled.


In California, Nevada and Arizona, air-conditioned cooling stations were set up in community centres, homeless shelters and libraries. US officials advised residents to avoid prolonged exposure to the searing temperatures whenever possible.


Additional border agents were posted, said Brent Cagen, spokesman for the Tucson sector of the US Border Patrol, after at least three people who attempted to illegally cross the border into Arizona were found dead earlier this week, likely succumbing to the heat. Meteorologist D.J. Hoffman said Las Vegas on Saturday flirted with its all-time record of 47C, as the mercury rose to 46C at the airport.


The weather was forecast to remain hot on Sunday, with highs expected to reach 47C in Phoenix and 43C in Tucson, Arizona, Hoffman said.


In Phoenix, emergency shelters are temporarily adding 150 beds in an effort to safeguard hundreds of homeless.


Officials in Clark County, Nevada, which includes Las Vegas, said they have installed 13 air-conditioned areas in community centres and homeless shelters, though the majority of them would be closed on Sunday. In 2005, roughly 17 people died during a similar heat wave over a 10-day period in the Las Vegas area.


Death Valley posted a high on Saturday of 51C, the National Weather Service reported, which is below the all-time world record of 57C.


Heather Saul,

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