US heatwave sees city hit 46C for five straight days – as doctors warn of third-degree burn risk

The southwest of the United States is sweltering in record heat as the city of Phoenix saw temperatures hit 115F (46C) for five days in a row.

Forecasters have issued excessive heat warnings in Arizona and Nevada for the rest of the weekend – and doctors have warned of the risk of third-degree burns from hot surfaces.

Las Vegas hit 111F (44C) on Saturday, just three degrees short of its record temperature for June.

Temperatures in Death Valley, California reached a sweltering 129F (53C) this week
Image:Temperatures in Death Valley in California reached 129F (53C) this week
In pictures: How blistering heatwave is fuelling extreme 'mega drought' in western US

In pictures: How blistering heatwave is fuelling extreme ‘mega drought’ in western US

In Arizona, fire officials blamed extreme heat for the spread of a wildfire that started on Wednesday and grew by Saturday to nearly 27 square miles near two mountain towns.

Evacuations were ordered on Friday while an aircraft and almost 100 firefighters fought the flames.

Phoenix set a record for the city on Saturday as it 115F (46C) for five consecutive days – and Sunday could extend the record to six days, meteorologist Isaac Smith said.

The problem of burns from hot surfaces is growing in southwest states, as temperatures rise due to climate change and increasing urbanisation.

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People cool off in the water in Lake Havasu, Arizona
Image:People cool off in the water in Lake Havasu, Arizona

Arizona Burn Centre in Phoenix said 104 people were admitted in June, July and August 2020 with serious burn injuries due to contact with scorching surfaces – including seven people who died.

Its director Dr Kevin Foster said: “It doesn’t take much time to get a full thickness or third degree burn when exposed to hot pavement.

“Because if you look at hot pavement or asphalt at two o’clock in the afternoon in direct sunlight, the temperature is usually somewhere around 170 to 180F.”

The Elizabeth Lake in California has dried up after several years of extreme weather a drought conditions
Image:The Elizabeth Lake in California has dried up after several years of extreme weather a drought conditions

Temperatures are expected to ease next week but could again top 110F (43.3C) in parts of southwest America next weekend.

Excessive heat warnings are also in effect in nearby California and Utah desert areas, as water levels in some areas dropped.

Lake Mead on the Colorado River supplies 25 million people with water in the southwestern states and Mexico. Pic AP
Image:Lake Mead has seen water levels fall to a record low. Pic AP

Lake Mead in Nevada supplies 25 million people with water and saw its water levels drop to their lowest point since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s.

In California, farmers have ditched some of the thirstiest crops to save others, while people are debating whether to ration tap water.

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Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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