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Weather service issues Phoenix heat warning as high hits 115

July 6, 2018
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Ivan McCarthy, 43, a homeless man, guzzles cold water at a Salvation Army cooling station in downtown Phoenix, Thursday, July 5, 2018. Phoenix's dry heat became a deadly heat Thursday as the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for the area, with temperatures projected to hit 114 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest of the year so far. (AP Photo/Anita Snow)

PHOENIX (AP) — Phoenix’s dry heat became a potentially deadly heat Thursday as the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning with temperatures hitting 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 Celsius), the highest of the year so far. The warning extended into other parts of Arizona and California.

The service said the warning would run through Friday evening, with the risk expected to remain high for potentially fatal heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Afternoon hours for people outside in the broiling sun will be especially dangerous, the agency said.

The excessive heat warning extended to parts of southwestern Arizona, including Casa Grande, Tucson, Gila Bend and Yuma. It also spread into areas of southeastern California, including Blythe, Coachella, Indio and Palm Springs.

“This is the highest temperature in Phoenix so far for 2018,” agency forecaster Travis Wilson said late Thursday afternoon. He said the record for the date was 116 (46.6 Celsius) in 1983.

Earlier in the day, fellow forecaster Marvin Perch said, “We’re looking for a bit cooler on Friday, maybe 111 (43.8 Celsius). Our main concern is that people stay safe.”

The weather agency uses a complicated formula that varies from region to region to declare an excessive heat warning, including close to record-breaking temperatures.

The metro Phoenix area, with about 5 million residents spread across the Valley of the Sun, experiences temperatures higher than 100 degrees (37 Celsius) most summer days.

Forecasters recommended that people stay home Thursday and Friday or seek shelter in air-conditioned public places such as libraries, community centers, shopping malls, as well as special cooling and hydrating stations.

There were 155 heat-associated deaths in Phoenix’s Maricopa County in 2017, the highest annual number ever recorded, as the city experienced its warmest year on record.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 219 people died from heat-associated causes around the state last year, with nearly 1,300 heat-caused deaths statewide during the decade from 2005 to 2015.

Maricopa County has reported only two heat-related deaths so far in 2018, said Scott Johnson, Southwest public relations director for the Salvation Army, which operates 13 cooling stations in the Valley of the Sun. “I’d like to think that means that the word is getting out about the stations,” Johnson said.

The Maricopa Association of Governments operates dozens more of the centers at libraries, churches and senior centers, helping people get out of the sun, drink water and rest in an air-conditioned area. There were no signs Thursday identifying Phoenix’s Burton Barr Central Library as an official cooling center, but several dozen street people escaped the heat on the second floor, watching movies on desktop computers or reading magazines seated in comfy chairs, their backpacks dumped on the floor.

At one Salvation Army cooling station downtown, Ivan McCarthy, a 43-year-old homeless man on a bicycle, happily accepted several bottles of cold water.

McCarthy gulped the water from one bottle in a matter of seconds and poured water from another one on his face. “It sure is nice getting a cold drink of water on a day like this,” he said.

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