Cheering 1st day of summer? Not in Phoenix with 120 expected

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Cheering 1st day of summer? Not in Phoenix with 120 expected
Cheering 1st day of summer? Not in Phoenix with 120 expected

PHOENIX (AP) – The first day of summer brought some of the worst heat the Southwest U.S. has seen in years, forcing flights to be canceled, straining the power grid and making life miserable for workers toiling in temperatures that reached 120 degrees in some desert cities.

Arizona is seeing some of the most dramatic temperatures Tuesday, but the heat wave is being felt across Nevada and California, too. It comes as researchers say deadly heat waves like this one are going to grow more frequent.

The forecast called for a high of 120 degrees (49 degrees Celsius) in Phoenix, which it hasn’t seen in more than two decades, and 126 in Death Valley. Palm Springs, California, hit 120, still two degrees lower than a June four years ago. The operator of California’s power grid called on people to conserve electricity during peak hours.

Workers at a construction site in a Phoenix suburb huddled under an excavator to find a sliver of a shade during a break. At another building site, men in hard hats and yellow vests labored and sweated in the heat and downed water to stay hydrated. Project superintendent Tommy Russell says his company has held weekly safety meetings to prepare for the heat, and he will send all his workers home if it hits 120.

Las Vegas also was baking. Out-of-town visitors tried to stay inside air-conditioned casinos as much as possible, and some tourists lugged packs of bottled water around the Strip. Others went to a bar where the temperature is set at 23 degrees, and glasses, walls and seats are sculpted from ice.

Tonya and Lavonda Williams traveled to Sin City from Orlando, Florida, to get out of town and see the Backstreet Boys in concert. Walking on the Las Vegas Strip in 112 degrees was too much to handle, even for people accustomed to high temperatures.

“This is like the oven door is open,” Lavonda Williams said as the sisters walked from a pedestrian bridge into The Palazzo casino-resort.

“It’s too hot to even drink alcohol,” Tonya Williams added.

Landscaper Juan Guadalupe scaled a spindly palm tree more than 50 feet tall in Phoenix, using a chain saw to hack the branches. He didn’t mind being tethered to a tall tree because he occasionally catches a cool breeze.

“Down here, it’s hot,” Guadalupe said.

With the cooling and hydration stations in full swing across the region, hundreds flocked to Grace Lutheran Church in Phoenix for water, meals, snacks, and refuge.

“We have homeless people come from a long way to sit here,” longtime volunteer Moses Elder said. “There are other spots where you can go get cold water and sit down and cool off, but there are few places you can lay down and get something to eat.”

The church houses about 180 people every day during the summer and typically goes through about 25 cases of water and 50 pounds of ice a day, Elder said.

Phoenix has hit 120 only three times in recorded history. The record high was 122 degrees on June 26, 1990.

The weather comes as new research found that nearly one in three people now experience 20 days a year when the heat reaches deadly levels. The study of nearly 2,000 deadly heat waves worldwide since 1980 was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

In the Southwest U.S., the heat has caused several problems this week.

In addition to grounding more than 40 flights of smaller planes, airlines have been taking other measures on larger jets to reduce their weight. American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said the carrier began limiting sales on some flights to prevent the planes from exceeding maximum weight for safe takeoff in the hot conditions.

The main burn center in Phoenix warned people to be careful around car interiors and pavement and with their pets.

About 50 people went a PetSmart store in a Phoenix suburb Tuesday to receive free elastic booties to put on their pets’ paws so they don’t burn on concrete and pavement.

Shelby Barnes, 48, picked up three sets of the booties for her dogs. She said she yells at people who walk their dogs without them in the afternoon heat.

“If you can’t put your foot on the sidewalk, neither can they,” she said.

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Associated Press writers Regina Garcia-Cano in Las Vegas and Josh Hoffner contributed to this report.

Xaviere Coleman pours water over his head to cool off in a Wookiee costume along the Las Vegas Strip, Tuesday, June 20, 2017, in Las Vegas. Coleman was taking a break from posing for photographs with tourists. The first day of summer is forecast to bring some of the worst heat the southwestern U.S. has seen in years. (AP Photo/John Locher)
A crew from Juarez Construction sits under their excavator during a break to avoid the heat, Tuesday, June 20, 2017 in Tempe, Ariz. Phoenix hit a high of 118 on Monday with an excessive heat warning in place until Saturday. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Julio Ruiz, left, who together with his father runs J.R.R. Roofing, hands a drink to one of his crew members replacing the shingles on house in Tucson, Ariz., Tuesday, June 20, 2017. The first day of summer was expected to bring some of the worst heat the Southwest U.S. has seen in years, forcing flights to be canceled, straining the power grid and making life miserable for workers toiling in temperatures that could reach 120 degrees in Phoenix. (Rick Wiley/Arizona Daily Star via AP)
Julio Ruiz of J.R.R. Roofing pauses in the heat while he and his crew remove old roofing on a house, as the temperature pushes 115-degrees in Tucson, Ariz. on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Ruiz said they had been working since 5:30am and had to finish putting down a layer of felt in case of monsoon rain. The Tucson area is under an excessive heat warning for the remainder of the week. (Rick Wiley/Arizona Daily Star via AP)
Crew members building the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway take a break as they try to keep hydrated and stay cool as temperatures climb to near-record highs Tuesday, June 20, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Jennifer Boushy, left, and Jennifer Rellinger, right, cool off their dogs in water at a dog park, Tuesday, June 20, 2017, in Las Vegas. The first day of summer is forecast to bring some of the worst heat the southwestern U.S. has seen in years. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Morgan Reed, a promotions assistant for KSLX, plays with a puppy wearing elastic booties at a PetSmart in Tempe, Ariz. on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Phoenix radio station KSLX handed out the protective coverings to protect dogs’ paws from the hot pavement, as temperatures in Phoenix are forecasted to hit 120 degrees. (AP Photo/Angie Wang)
Kara Leavitt, 34, picks up elastic booties for her 4-year-old dog Chase at a PetSmart in Tempe, Ariz. on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Phoenix radio station KSLX handed out the protective coverings to protect dogs’ paws from the hot pavement, as temperatures in Phoenix are forecasted to hit 120 degrees. (AP Photo/Angie Wang)
Marisabel Romo, 21, kisses her 2-month-old puppy Arrow before a vet appointment at a PetSmart in Tempe, Ariz. on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Phoenix radio station KSLX handed out the protective coverings to protect dogs’ paws from the hot pavement, as temperatures in Phoenix are forecasted to hit 120 degrees. (AP Photo/Angie Wang)
Heat waves ripple across the tarmac at Sky Harbor International Airport as downtown Phoenix stands in the background as an airplane lands, Tuesday, June 20, 2017 in Phoenix. Phoenix hit a high of 118 on Monday with an excessive heat warning in place until Saturday. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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