Heat wave ravages large parts of US, killing West and gripping East

DEATH VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds of Europeans touring the American West and adventurers from across the U.S. continued to flock to Death Valley National Park Monday, even as the desolate region known as one of the hottest places on Earth is being punished by a dangerous heat wave blamed for the death of a motorcyclist over the weekend.

French, Spanish, English and Swiss tourists left their air-conditioned rental cars and campers to take photos of the barren landscape so different from the snow-capped mountains and rolling green hills they know at home. American adventurers found it exciting news, even as California park officials warned visitors to be careful.

“I was excited that it was going to be so hot,” said Drew Belt, a resident of Tupelo, Mississippi, who wanted to stop in Death Valley, the lowest elevation in the U.S., on his way to climbing California’s Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s kind of like walking on Mars.”

Park manager Mike Reynolds warned visitors in a statement that “high temperatures like these can pose a real danger to your health.”

The scorching heat wave that gripped much of the United States also led to record daily temperatures. high temperatures in Oregon, where it is believed to have caused four deaths in the Portland area. More than 146 million people A heat warning was in effect across the US on Monday, especially in the western states.

Dozens of locations in the western and northwestern Pacific Ocean tied or broke previous heat records this past weekend, and that trend is expected to continue into the week.

The early heat wave in the US came as global temperatures hit record highs in June for the 13th month in a row and marked the 12th consecutive month that the Earth was 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than in pre-industrial times, according to the European climate service Copernicus.

In Oregon’s Multnomah County, where Portland is located, the coroner is investigating four suspected heat-related deaths that were reported Friday, Saturday and Sunday, officials said. Three of the deaths involved county residents who were 64, 75 and 84 years old, county officials said in an email. Heat also was suspected in the death of a 33-year-old man who was transported from outside the county to a Portland hospital.

Portland broke daily record temperatures on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and was on track to do so again Monday with a forecast high of 102 F (38.9 C), National Weather Service meteorologist Hannah Chandler-Cooley said. High temperatures were expected in Portland through Tuesday night.


Thor Teigen poses in a fur coat next to a thermometer that reads 131 degrees Fahrenheit/55 degrees Celsius at the Furnace Creek Visitors Center, in Death Valley National Park, California, Sunday, July 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Ty ONeil)

Temperatures are not expected to be as high as during a comparable period. Pacific Northwest heat wave in 2021in which an estimated 600 people died in Oregon, Washington and western Canada. But its duration could be problematic because many homes in the region do not have air conditioning.

Heat illness and injury are cumulative and can build up over a day or days, officials warn. In San Jose, California, a homeless man died last week from apparently heat-related causes, Mayor Matt Mahan reported on the social media platform X, calling it “a preventable tragedy.”

In the scorching desert of Eastern California, a high temperature of 128 F (53.3 C) was recorded Saturday and Sunday at Death Valley National Park, where an unnamed visitor died saturday from heat exposure. Another person was hospitalized, officials said.


Lucita Corupuz, 80, visiting from St. Louis, covers up for the sun while visiting the University of Washington campus with her family Sunday, July 7, 2024, in Seattle. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times via AP)


People seek refuge in mist along the Las Vegas Strip, Sunday, July 7, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

They were among six motorcyclists who were riding through the Badwater Basin area in the scorching weather, the park said in a statement. The other four were treated at the scene. Emergency helicopters could not reach the scene because aircraft generally cannot fly safely above 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.8 degrees Celsius), officials said.

Even more extreme temperatures are forecast soon, with a high of 130 F (54.4 C) possible by midweek.

The largest national park outside Alaska, Death Valley is considered one of the most extreme environments on Earth. The highest temperature ever officially recorded on Earth was 134°F (56.67°C) in July 1913 in Death Valley, although some experts dispute that measurement and say the real record was 130°F (54.4°C), recorded there in July 2021.

“It’s impressive,” said Thomas Mrzliek of Basel, Switzerland, of the triple-digit heat. “It’s like a wave hitting you when you get out of the car, but it’s a very dry heat. So it’s not like in Europe.”

Across the Nevada desert, Las Vegas reached a record high of 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.8 degrees Celsius) on Sunday, prediction to reach a record high of 115°F (46.1°C) on Monday. The National Weather Service predicted a high of 117°F (47.2°C) in Phoenix.

Extreme heat and a prolonged drought in the West have also dried out vegetation that can fuel wildfires

In California, a wildfire in the mountains of Santa Barbara County grew to nearly 32 square miles (83 square kilometers) on Monday. More than 1,000 firefighters were on the lines of the Lake Fire, and areas under evacuation included the former Neverland Ranch once owned by the late pop star Michael Jackson.

Warnings for rare heat were even extended to higher elevations, including around Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada border. The weather service in Reno, Nevada, warned of “high heat risks, even in the mountains.”

Reno is expected to reach 105°F (40.5°C) for the third consecutive day later on Monday, which would be the first time that’s happened in more than 100 years of record keeping. It also said there’s a good chance that streak will continue for three more days, with similar highs forecast through Thursday.

People flocked to beaches around Lake Tahoe on Monday, particularly Sand Harbor State Park, where a record high of 91.2 degrees Fahrenheit was set on Sunday, breaking the previous record of 88.6 degrees Fahrenheit set in 2014. For the fifth day in a row, Sand Harbor closed its gates within 90 minutes of opening at 8 a.m. because it was at capacity.

“It’s definitely hotter than we’re used to,” said Tyler Kerver, spokesman for Nevada State Parks.


Rush reported from Portland, Ore., and Snow from Phoenix. AP reporters Christopher Weber and John Antczak in Los Angeles; Janie Har in San Francisco; and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nev., contributed to this report.

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