Heat record will be ‘obliterated’ in Phoenix; Texas inmates simmer in ‘hell’: Live updates

PHOENIX − The city smashed its record for most consecutive days at 110 degrees or higher as a historic temperature inferno tightened its grip across much of the nation’s southern tier Wednesday.

The city also set its all-time mark for hottest night on record early Wednesday with an overnight low of 97 degrees, the National Weather Service in Phoenix reported.

Oppressive temperatures will continue to spread across the south-central and southeast U.S. through this weekend, forecasters warned. And Phoenix can expect little relief: The weather service warned that the “extremely dangerous and long-duration heat wave” will continue over the Southwest well into next week.

“This record is forecast to be obliterated,” AccuWeather meteorologist Renee Duff said of the Phoenix streak. AccuWeather has 110-plus degree highs forecast daily through at least the middle to latter part of next week.

The dangerously hot temperatures are also taxing hospitals. At Valleywise Health Medical Center in some extreme cases, some patients were being cooled off in ice-packed body bags, Communications Director Michael Murphy told CNN.

“It doesn’t cool down here at all and surface temps can get so ridiculously high,” Murphy said.

A person tries to cool off in the shade as temperatures are expected to hit 116 on July 18, 2023, in Phoenix.

Summers are always hot:Here’s how we know climate change is making summer 2023 hotter

Climate change, El Niño conspire to bring the heat

The extreme temperatures being recorded this summer are the result of the combination of natural variations within the climate system and human-caused climate change, with a hefty serving of El Niño thrown in.

Daniel Swain, a climate scientist a the University of California, Los Angeles, said the world is starting to see the long-term, human-caused warming. Still, he doesn’t believe Earth has reached some sort of climate tipping point. This does not appear to be a sudden, sustained acceleration of the long-term trends climate scientists have been observing for decades, he said.

Still, “there aren’t any unprecedentedly extreme heat events on Earth that haven’t been exacerbated by climate change,” Swain said.

Elizabeth Weise

America’s red-hot summer:How people are coping with heat waves across the country

Texas heat brings call for air conditioning in prisons

Prison advocates, ministers, politicians and grieving parents are lobbying the Texas governor, lieutenant governor and Senate to put air conditioning in prisons as triple-digit temperatures transform them into a “living hell.” More than two-thirds of Texas’ 100 prisons do not have air conditioning in their living quarters, advocates say. Last month, nine people died of heart failure or unknown conditions, which advocates blame on the excessive heat in the prisons. Amanda Hernandez, Texas Department of Criminal Justice communications director, said preliminary findings show the deaths are “not heat related.” 

However, J. Carlee Purdum, a Texas A&M University research assistant professor, says the number reported is “wildly underestimated” because determining whether heat was the cause of death is difficult. Purdum said inmates described prisons during the summer as a “living hell.”

Skye Seipp, Austin American-Statesman

Tornado causes injuries, damage in North Carolina

In the East, where the heat isn’t as extreme as it is in the South or West, severe weather was the story Wednesday. A tornado touched down in eastern North Carolina on Wednesday afternoon, injuring at least two people, damaging homes and businesses, and shutting down I-95, authorities said.

The tornado was rated an EF-2, with winds estimated at 135 mph, the weather service in Raleigh, North Carolina, reported.

The twister was reported on the ground in Nash County near Rocky Mount, North Carolina, which is about 44 miles northeast of Raleigh, just after 12:30 p.m. local time, AccuWeather said.

Rocky Mount city officials wrote on Facebook that “a reported tornado moved through the northern part of the city a short time ago. City crews are responding to power outages and downed trees.”

No deaths have been reported.

The tornado damaged a building that houses pharmaceutical company Pfizer, a major employer in the area, Weather.com reported. Several homes were also reported damaged.

Major north-south highway I-95 had been shut down for a couple of hours Wednesday due to trees on the roadway, local officials said. Both northbound and southbound lanes were reopened as of 3:08 p.m. ET.

Flash flood emergency in western Kentucky

Overnight rain that rolled through Western Kentucky led to a flash flood emergency early Wednesday in parts of the region, forcing people from their homes.

According to the National Weather Service in Paducah, a flash flood warning remains in effect until 2 p.m. CDT Thursday in portions of Ballard, Carlisle, Graves and Hickman counties. It also includes portions of Southern Illinois and Southeastern Missouri.

Between 6 and 8 inches of rain fell in the area before 8 a.m., according to the weather agency, with 2 to 4 more inches expected. Areas affected include Mayfield, Wingo, Fancy Farm, Beulah, Dublin, and surrounding rural areas.

In a 6 a.m. update, the Graves County Sheriff’s Office said many roads in the area have been submerged and drivers should be cautious with more rain expected. 

“Major flooding like many have never seen is occurring,” the Graves County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a Facebook update Wednesday morning.

– Lucas Aulbach, Louisville Courier Journal

Tropical Storm Calvin brings heavy rain and strong winds to Hawaii

Tropical Storm Calvin passed by the south side of the Big Island of Hawaii on Wednesday morning, bringing a mix of heavy rain and strong winds. Up to 10 inches of rain was possible, which could lead to flash floods and mudslides, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said.

Maximum sustained winds were measured at 45 mph, the center said.

On Tuesday, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green declared a state of emergency for the Big Island, which was entirely under a tropical storm warning.

Calvin will continue to weaken as it moves westward to the south of the other Hawaiian Islands today and tonight, the hurricane center said.

Great Lakes region, East face air quality alerts

Canadian wildfires and smoke were responsible for air quality alerts Wednesday over parts of the Great Lakes region, southern mid-Atlantic and Northeast, the National Weather Service said. Short-term forecasts show lesser concentrations of Canadian wildfire smoke by day’s end.

“This should give most of the northern tier of the U.S. a break from the more concentrated smoke plumes through at least Thursday,” meteorologist Peter Mullinax said.

Hot Middle East even hotter this summer

The Middle East, where very hot summers are a way of life, is also seeing record temperatures. In the United Arab Emirates, temperatures in some areas exceeded a scorching 122 degrees two days in a row. Oman and Kuwait have routinely seen temperatures over 116 and also could break 120 before the month is over.

One temperature reading from a few days ago stands out amidst the others: At the Persian Gulf International Airport on Sunday, the heat index reached an unimaginable 152 degrees, according to Colin McCarthy from US Stormwatch. The heat index combines the air temperature with humidity and measures what the weather feels like to the human body.

Palestinians in Gaza are complaining loudly to Hamas leaders as temperatures soar over 104 degrees amid power shortages. Hamas blames a 16-year-long Israeli-Egyptian blockade for hampering development of the power network.

“Our dreams have shrunk from (achieving) the right of return and liberating the homeland to one extra hour of electricity,” Abdel-Hamid Abdel Ati, a local journalist, told Reuters.

Phoenix breaks 49-year heat record

Wednesday marked the 20th straight day with temperatures at or above 110 degrees in Phoenix, which is now a new record.

Tuesday was the 19th straight day with temperatures at or above 110 degrees in the city, breaking a record set in 1974. The National Weather Service said the temperature at Sky Harbor International Airport ultimately reached 118 degrees Tuesday, breaking a record for the date and tying for the highest temperature Phoenix has reached this year.

Temperatures are not expected to let up in Phoenix, and temperatures are forecast to be above 110 degrees for the remainder of the week.

“We’re able to really heat up when we’re not having the moisture and the storms,” National Weather Service meteorologist Sean Benedict said. “We’re getting 5 to 10 degrees above normal in some cases.”

Lorenzo Estrada and Fernando Cervantes Jr., Arizona Republic

Midwest, East could see life-threatening flooding

Flash flooding and severe weather are possible from the Midwest to the mid-Atlantic through Thursday, the weather service said. AccuWeather meteorologists stressed the risk of life-threatening and damaging flash flooding. During the past weekend, widespread rainfall of 1–4 inches and locally higher amounts from 6-8 inches in a matter of hours triggered rapid rises on small streams from Virginia to Maine. In some cases, streams spilled over roads and water rose across low-lying roadways in a matter of minutes.

Their was a silver lining: The storms were expected to move faster than the ones from last weekend and last week, which could help to mitigate a widespread flood threat, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty said.

“However, because of the saturated state of the ground in many areas due to the recent heavy rain … downpours can still trigger flash flooding more easily than would typically occur,” Douty warned.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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