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The bodies of an unusually large number of migrants who died in Arizona’s borderlands are being recovered this summer amid record temperaturesBy ANITA SNOW Associated PressJuly 12, 2021, 9:57 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePHOENIX — The bodies of an unusually large number of migrants who died in Arizona’s borderlands are being recovered this summer amid record temperatures in the sun-scorched desert and rugged mountains.An increase in migrant deaths also has been noted in Texas, and rescues are up throughout the border with Mexico.The nonprofit group Humane Borders, which maps the recoveries of bodies in Arizona using data from the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office in Tucson, said 43 sets of human remains were found in the state’s border region last month — the hottest June on record for Phoenix. Forecasters say highs in Phoenix, where temperatures last month regularly soared above 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius), tend to be similar to those in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert north of Mexico.Not all 43 of those people died in June, but at least 16 had been dead for just a day and another 13 for less than a week when they were found, said Humane Borders mapping coordinator Mike Kreyche. The group’s figures include all bodies recovered of people believed to have been migrants and are higher than the number of deaths reported by the Border Patrol, which only counts those it handles in the course of its work.Kreyche noted that the 127 sets of remains found during the first half of this year are far higher than the 96 bodies recovered during the same period last year. This year’s six-month recovery toll also is higher than that of all of 2017, when 123 sets of remains were found near Arizona’s border with Mexico.Exposure is the most commonly listed cause of death.Texas officials say they also have seen an increase in migrant deaths this year.The Brooks County Sheriff’s Department in southern Texas last month reported 36 migrant deaths in the first five months of 2021, more than all of last year.The growing number of recovered bodies comes as border officials warn of increased dangers as temperatures soar this summer.Although most migrants now cross through Texas, decades of enforcement there and in California pushes many others into hostile areas of Arizona where water and food is unavailable.The U.S. Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector gathered reporters this month just feet from the U.S.-Mexico border at the Colorado River to emphasize the risks migrants take crossing the Sonoran Desert.“The desert is vast and treacherous. When you cross illegally, you put yourself in incredible peril,” Sector Chief Patrol Agent Chris T. Clem told journalists. “And our hot season is just beginning.”Humanitarian groups like Humane Borders, the Tucson Samaritans and No More Deaths leave water jugs and other provisions in remote parts of southern Arizona in hopes of saving lives in a region where more than 3,700 migrant deaths have been documented since 2004. But many migrants never find the water tanks or jugs after getting lost.Rescues have been up, keeping the Border Patrol’s specialized search and rescue units and air and marine operations busy.The Border Patrol’s El Centro Sector in eastern California reported Monday that its agents had rescued three migrants suffering from heat-related illness in the Jacumba Wilderness near Ocotillo in two separate events on July 1.
PHOENIX — Extreme temperatures like the ones blistering the American West this week aren’t just annoying, they’re deadly.The record-breaking temperatures this week are a weather emergency, scientists and health care experts say, with heat responsible for more deaths in the U.S. than all other natural disasters combined. With more frequent and intense heat waves likely because of climate change and the worst drought in modern history, they say communities must better protect the vulnerable, like homeless people and those who live in ethnically and racially diverse low-income neighborhoods.“This heat has an important effect on people and their health,” said Dr. Suganya Karuppana, chief medical director at the Valle del Sol community health clinics in Arizona.People — along with plants and animals — need cooler temperatures at night to recover from the stress of high heat, scientists and doctors said. But with overnight temperatures in the 90s, that’s not happening.Karuppana noted that many people she sees may have no car and have to take public transportation in the Phoenix heat, walking through neighborhoods with few trees and waiting at bus and light rail stops with no or little shade. Some people live in poorly ventilated mobile homes or without air conditioning. Or they may work outside in the sun as construction workers or landscapers.Phoenix has been baking in temperatures above 115 degrees (46 Celsius) all week. The high Friday was expected to reach 117 degrees (47 Celsius) after hitting a record 118 (48 Celsius) a day earlier. Daily records were set this week in Arizona, Nevada and California, including 128 degrees (53 Celsius) in Death Valley on Thursday.Those who are vulnerable to high temperatures include the very young, the very old and people with heart or kidney disease, ailments that disproportionately affect communities of color.“We are activated for Phoenix and monitoring it closely,” said Nicolette Louissaint, executive director of the Washington nonprofit Healthcare Ready, which was founded after Hurricane Katrina to help communities deal with natural disasters.Louissaint said her organization has helped in heat emergencies by funding cooling centers that offer bottled water and shade or arrange transportation for older people without cars who need dialysis or heart checkups.“Extreme heat really exacerbates those kind of serious medical conditions,” she said. “It’s tough on people who don’t have a lot of money.”Phoenix and other local governments around the Southwest remind people on social media to drink lots of water, stay out of the sun if possible and take frequent breaks on hot days. They warn people to not leave children or pets in vehicles, and they work with nonprofits like the Salvation Army to open facilities that allow people to cool off.The rising risks of the heat became painfully clear three years ago when 72-year-old Stephanie Pullman died at her Phoenix-area home after Arizona’s largest electric utility turned off her service for failure to pay $51. A coroner listed “environmental heat exposure” as one of the causes of her 2018 death.It led to a series of moratoriums on overdue electrical bills in Arizona that continued through the end of last year amid the coronavirus pandemic. The utility, Arizona Public Service, says it has suspended service disconnections and waived late fees through Oct. 15.The county that includes Phoenix has reported three heat-related deaths as of Saturday, with an additional 20 fatalities being investigated as possibly caused by high temperatures.Heat-related deaths in Maricopa County have been rising dramatically in recent years, with 323 reported last year, the highest ever recorded. The highest rates were reported among Black people and Native Americans. About 80% of those who died were men.People living on the street are especially at risk. The Maricopa County medical examiner has said heat was a primary or secondary cause in the death of 146 homeless people last year, when the summer was the hottest ever recorded in Phoenix.Scientists say the number of heat deaths in the U.S. West and the world over were only expected to rise.As average temperatures rise worldwide, heat is becoming more extreme, said Gerald Meehl, senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.“As the average climate warms up from increasing human-produced greenhouse gases, we are seeing more intense, more frequent and longer lasting heat waves,” Meehl said.A study last month estimated the number of heat deaths each year that can be attributed to human-caused global warming. It included about 200 U.S. cities and found more than 1,100 deaths a year from climate change-caused heat, many of them in the East and Midwest, where many people don’t have air conditioning or are not acclimated to hot weather.Joellen Russell, climate science professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said the Southwest is an early example of what will hit the rest of the nation later when it comes to the dangers of heat extremes caused by global warming.“I think we’d better hurry up,” she said. “Our kids are counting on us.”———Associated Press Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed from Washington. Follow Snow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/asnowreports and Borenstein at https://twitter.com/borenbears.
PHOENIX — Much of the American West has been blasted with sweltering heat this week as a high pressure dome combines with the worst drought in modern history to launch temperatures into the triple digits, toppling records even before the official start of summer.Record daily highs were seen this week in parts of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and Utah. Phoenix, which is baking in some of the U.S. West’s hottest weather, was forecast to hit 117 degrees (47 Celsius) Thursday and 116 degrees Friday and Saturday.“Very dangerous record breaking heat should continue today across the deserts with well above normal highs,” the National Weather Service’s Phoenix staff wrote on Facebook. “A very good day to stay indoors.”WHY IS THE AMERICAN WEST SO HOT THIS WEEK?The heat comes from a high pressure system over the West, a buckle in the jet stream winds that move across the U.S. and vast swaths of soil sucked dry by a historic drought, said Marvin Percha, a senior meteorologist for the agency in Phoenix.He and other scientists say the heat wave is unusual because it arrived earlier and is staying longer than in most years.“June last year, things seemed pretty normal,” noted Park Williams, a University of California, Los Angeles, climate and fire scientist. “The record-breaking heat waves came in August and September.”But with such an early heat wave this year, “this could be the tip of the iceberg,” Williams said.WHAT ROLES DO DROUGHT AND CLIMATE CHANGE PLAY?A two-decade-long dry spell that some scientists refer to as a “megadrought” has sucked the moisture out of the soil through much of the Western United States. Researchers said in a study published last year in the journal Science that man-made climate change tied to the emission of greenhouse gases can be blamed for about half of the historic drought.Scientists studying the dry period that began in 2000 looked at a nine-state area from Oregon and Wyoming down through California and New Mexico and found only one other that was slightly larger. That drought started in 1575, a decade after St. Augustine, Florida, was founded and before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620.The hot weather can be tied to the drought drying out the landscape. Normally, some of the sun’s heat evaporates moisture in the soil, but scientists say the Western soil is so dry that instead that energy makes the air even warmer.“When the soil is wet, heat waves aren’t so bad,” said Williams, who has calculated that soil in the western half of the nation is the driest it has been since 1895. “But if it’s dry, we are under extreme risk.”HOW DO RECENT WILDFIRES FIGURE INTO THIS?Scientists say the wildfires that have erupted in recent days have been fed by the excessive heat across the region. Climate change contributes to the drought conditions and makes trees and shrubs more likely to catch fire.At least 14 new wildfires broke out this week in Montana and Wyoming as the record heat sparked an early start to the fire season. Firefighters also battled blazes in Arizona and New Mexico.“From a fire potential standpoint, what is capable this year, it is certainly much more severe than we’ve seen in the past,” U.S. Department of Agriculture fire meteorologist Gina Palma said in a climate briefing Thursday.Palma said the drought-related fire risks were especially pronounced in higher elevations across much of the U.S. West, from the Rocky Mountains down into the Southwest and parts of California.“You will be seeing very extreme fire behavior, certainly conditions that we would not normally see in June,” she said.IS THIS THE NEW NORMAL?A growing number of scientific studies are concluding that heat waves in some cases can be directly attributed to climate change, said Kristie L. Ebi, a professor at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington.That means the U.S. West and the rest of the world can expect more extreme heat waves in the future unless officials move to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, Ebi and other scientists say.A study last month estimated the percent and number of heat deaths each year that can be attributed to human-caused climate change. It included about 200 U.S. cities and found more than 1,100 deaths a year from climate change-caused heat, representing about 35% of all heat deaths in the country.On average each year, Phoenix has 23 climate-triggered heat deaths, Los Angeles has 21 and Tucson has 13, the study said.“Climate change is harming us now,” Ebi said. “It’s a future problem, but it’s also a current problem.”———Associated Press Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed from Washington. Follow Snow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/asnowreports and Borenstein at https://twitter.com/borenbears.
PHOENIX — An unusually early and long-lasting heat wave brought more triple-digit temperatures Wednesday to a large swath of the U.S. West, raising concerns that such extreme weather could become the new normal amid a decades-long drought.Phoenix, which is seeing some of the highest temperatures this week, tied a record for the second day in a row when it reached 115 degrees (46 Celsius) Wednesday and was expected to hit 117 (47 Celsius) each of the next two days, the National Weather Service said.Scientists who study drought and climate change say that people living in the American West can expect to see more of the same in the coming years.“Heat waves are getting worse in the West because the soil is so dry” from the region’s megadrought, said Park Williams, a University of California, Los Angeles, climate and fire scientist who has calculated that soil in the western half of the nation is the driest it has been since 1895. “We could have two, three, four, five of these heat waves before the end of the summer.”A few clouds were holding the temperatures down slightly in the desert region of southwest Arizona and southeast California. But there was no real relief expected from the excessive heat warning in effect until at least Sunday. Palm Springs hit a high of 120 degrees on Tuesday,The dome of high pressure spread over the West the week before the official start of summer, causing unusually hot days and warm evenings.Expecting crowds trying to cool off, a half dozen lifeguards in wide-brimmed straw hats and red T-shirts over swimsuits waited for people to arrive at a city pool in downtown Phoenix that features a water slide and several fountains. Several blocks away, outdoor misters spritzed diners on restaurant patios.In California, the operator of the state’s power grid is asking residents to voluntarily conserve power for a few hours Thursday evening as record-breaking heat blankets the West this week.The California Independent System Operator issued the alert to help relieve stress on the grid. It asks people to set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, turn off unnecessary lights and avoid using major appliances. CEO Elliot Mainzer said the grid was stable and there was no expectation of rotating power outages, but that could change as temperatures spike in the coming days.Higher temperatures also were felt in the normally temperate San Francisco Bay Area. A few cooling centers were open but mostly empty by the afternoon.Kathleen Craft, shelter coordinator for the city of Livermore, California, said temperatures had reached 99 degrees (37 Celsius) shortly after midday but only one woman had shown up at the city’s cooling center.“We’re anticipating we’ll see more people tomorrow when a temperature of 108 degrees is forecast,” Craft said.Elsewhere in the West, triple-digit heat was forecast in Denver, which saw a record high of 101 degrees (38 Celsius) Tuesday. The weather service issued an excessive heat warning for parts of western Colorado, most of which is experiencing extreme drought conditions.Bekka Hamburg was trying to beat the heat by paddle-boarding on a lake just west of downtown Denver on Wednesday.“I rented this (paddleboard) a week ago knowing that it would be like 100 degrees,” the 24-year-old visiting from Indianapolis said. “I didn’t pack any pants, didn’t pack any T-shirts. I just packed tank tops and shorts.”Hamburg said it was the first time she had experienced Colorado’s “dry heat,” adding that it’s much easier to manage than the humid heat common in the Midwest.In Nevada, Las Vegas hit 116 degrees (46.6 Celsius), breaking the record of 114 degrees (45.5 Celsius) for the date set during a record hot spell on June 16, 1940.The region is expected to remain at 113 degrees (45 C) or hotter through Sunday, National Weather Service meteorologist John Salmen said, and still could top the all-time local high of 117 degrees (47 Celsius), set June 20, 2017.“This is pretty impressive. We’re seeing all-time records fall,” Salmen said.New Mexico also experienced more record-breaking highs. But a possible respite was in sight with showers and thunderstorms expected in parts of the state.In Montana, temperatures over 100 degrees (38 Celsius) have made it tougher to fight wildfires that have exploded in size, triggering evacuations and destroying an undetermined number of homes. Furious winds have stoked the flames and forced the crash-landing of a firefighting helicopter.At least 14 new fires have been reported in Montana and Wyoming since Tuesday.The dry weather was also being felt in Idaho, where authorities are preparing for what could be a challenging wildfire season.Nick Nauslar, a meteorologist with the National Interagency Fire Center, told state officials this week that nearly 80% of Idaho is in drought and the rest will likely experience it in the coming months. He said Idaho had its second-driest spring in the last 126 years.———Associated Press journalists Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco; John Antczak and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles; Thomas Peipert and Brittany Peterson in Denver; Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana; Ken Ritter in Las Vegas; and Keith Ridler in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.
Dangerous, record-busting heat is spreading across the U.S. Southwest and into parts of Utah, Montana and WyomingBy ANITA SNOW Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 10:14 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePHOENIX — Dangerous, record-busting heat spread across the U.S. Southwest on Tuesday and into parts of Utah, Montana and Wyoming as a dome of high pressure hovered over a large swath of the region, pushing temperatures into the triple digits this week and intensifying the risk for wildfires amid a long-running drought.Some of the highest temperatures were seen in bone-dry Arizona, where the National Weather Service forecast a record high of 117 degrees (47 degrees Celsius) in Phoenix. The previous high for the date was 115 degrees (46 Celsius), set in 1974.“It is kind of early to see temperatures this high, that’s for sure,” said Marvin Percha, senior forecaster at the weather service’s Phoenix office.Percha said the high pressure dome combined with the land’s lack of moisture caused by extreme drought has combined to create blistering heat expected throughout the entire week.“What is unusual is the strength and the duration” of the high pressure system, he said.The temperatures in Phoenix also could break records the rest of the week, with highs expected to reach 116 Wednesday and 118 Thursday and Friday.The excessive heat stretched from southeast California across Arizona and Nevada and into New Mexico, where a high of 103 degrees (39 Celsius) Monday at Albuquerque’s airport set a record. It was expected to hit near that Tuesday.For the second day in a row, Salt Lake City set a heat record, hitting 105 degrees Tuesday, according to the weather service. That also tied the all-time hottest temperature ever recorded in the month of June. On Monday, Utah’s capital reached 103 degrees to break a heat record for that date set nearly 50 years ago.Temperatures in the Las Vegas area also were rising toward possible records during what the weather service was calling the hottest spell in decades.“It’s just going up from here,” said meteorologist Ashley Nickerson of the weather service’s Las Vegas office.Tuesday’s high temperature at Las Vegas’ McCarron International Airport was expected to reach 113 degrees (45 Celsius).Rising temperatures were worsening the risk for wildfires in Montana and northern Wyoming, officials said. Forecasters said the highs Tuesday could approach 110 degrees (43 degrees Celsius) in portions of eastern Montana, shattering decades-old records. A daily record of 103 degrees (39 degrees Celsius) was set Monday in Billings.Strong winds with gusts up to 35 miles per hour were expected, threatening to stir up wildfires already burning and make it hard to stamp out new blazes.A wildfire that broke out Monday near Yellowstone National Park in Montana grew quickly overnight and had burned more than 3 square miles (8 square kilometers) by Tuesday morning, news station KULR-TV reported. Homeowners in the area were told they could be asked to evacuate if conditions worsened.The heat wave hit at the start of the Southwest’s annual monsoon season, which runs Tuesday through Sept. 30 and is supposed to be the region’s rainy period, often contributing as much as 60% of the annual precipitation.But last year’s monsoon was the driest in recorded history, with an average of just 1.5 inches (4 centimeters) of rain in Arizona.Percha, the forecaster in Phoenix, said June is Arizona’s driest month and that the state doesn’t usually start seeing some rain until early July.