Southwest celebrates first day of summer with heat wave

As temperatures climbed into the triple digits across the region, major airlines were forced to delay or cancel flights out of Las Vegas and Phoenix airports, citing difficulty in operating aircraft in extreme heat.

In Phoenix, Arizona, state weather service forecast the mark 120 degrees in the desert city along with unsafe heat waves that can cause health hazards in the region along with the whole southwestern part of the country.

The Valley of the Sun lived up to its name Tuesday, hitting a record 118 degrees just hours before the first day of summer.

And while forecasters say the heat was expected to peak on Tuesday, excessive heat warnings remain in effect through Sunday evening in parts of Arizona, Nevada and California. On the same date a year ago, the desert resort town reached 122.

American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said the smaller regional jets flown by its partners can't operate once the temperature hits 118.

Las Vegas has tied its record high temperature of 117 degrees (47.2 degrees Celsius) as a weather system continues to bring scorching heat to the Southwest U.S.

At a downtown Phoenix construction site, men in hard hats and yellow vests labored and sweat in the morning heat and downed water to stay hydrated.

"We have homeless people come from a long way to sit here", longtime volunteer Moses Elder said. Further west, Death Valley, Calif., temperatures are predicted to be a suffocating 126 degrees for the second consecutive day.

Phoenix is the second-fastest warming city in the U.S. over the past 50 years while Las Vegas comes in at third and Tucson at seventh. It reached 91 degrees in San Rafael - which is not quite as hot as the record of 102 degrees set in 1973, according to the National Weather Service. That hasn't happened since 2013, and it would be only the third time the city has reached that temperature.

Pacific Gas and Electric says its customers may break an all-time record for electricity use on Thursday, especially due to use of air conditioners.

What is making this heat wave so intense and risky is that it is a prolonged one, and will end up affecting the region for at least one full week. The study of almost 2,000 deadly heat waves worldwide since 1980 was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

American Airlines alerted customers over the weekend that over 40 American Eagle flights scheduled to depart from or arrive in Phoenix between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. local time on Monday and Tuesday afternoon - during peak temperatures - would be cancelled, allowing customers the option to request a refund or change travel plans for no additional fee.

The first day of summer is forecast to bring some of the worst heat the southwestern US has seen in years. It's the first time the average daily temperature has been above 100 degrees in Tucson, where weather records go back to 1894.

"People can go right from what they think is heat exhaustion to symptoms of a heat stroke which is actually a fatal illness", said Phoenix Fire Department Captain Reda Bigler. They said on Twitter that it's "like your skin and flesh are burning off".


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