The scorching heat included a 130-degree reading in Death Valley in California on Friday, matching a similar recorded temperature in August 2020. The temperature in the area reached just over 120 degrees on Sunday.
Dangerously hot conditions, with temperatures ranging from 100 to 118 degrees, are expected in the western Mojave Desert and Owens Valley, in California, and throughout parts of western and south-central Nevada, including Las Vegas, in Clark County, until Tuesday.
Before the heat wave struck, cooling centers popped up across California. Portable air-conditioning kits reportedly sold out in stores in Salem, Ore., in June. Both restaurants and outdoor Covid-19 vaccine clinics closed in Portland.
The Bootleg fire began in the Fremont-Winema National Forest near the Sprague River on Tuesday, just before 2 p.m., according to an incident report. While the megafire began in a relatively remote area, it soon traveled closer to homes, leading in Klamath County to a Level 3 evacuation, meaning that residents should leave immediately because danger is imminent.
The Sheriff’s Office there said it also “took the rare step of citing or arresting those who remained in or were trying to re-enter the Level 3 evacuation areas in the Bootleg fire area.”
As suffocating heat hits much of Western North America, experts are concerned about human safety and power failures.
- Western Canada: Canada broke a national heat record on June 27, when the temperature in a small town in British Columbia reached almost 116 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking an 84-year-old record by nearly 3 degrees, with dangerously hot weather expected to continue for several more days.
- Pacific Northwest U.S.: A heat dome has enveloped the region driving temperatures to extreme levels — with temperatures well above 100 degrees — and creating dangerous conditions in a part of the country unaccustomed to oppressive summer weather or air-conditioning.
- Severe Drought: Much of the Western half of the United States is in the grip of a severe drought of historic proportions. Conditions are especially bad in California and the Southwest, but the drought extends into the Pacific Northwest, much of the Intermountain West, and even the Northern Plains. The extreme heat is exacerbating the dry conditions.
- Growing Energy Shortages: Power failures have increased by more than 60 percent since 2015, even as climate change has made heat waves worse, according to new research published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
- Baseline Temperatures Are Rising: New baseline data for temperature, rain, snow and other weather events reveal how the climate has changed in the United States. One key takeaway, the country is getting hotter.
This summer, with its record-breaking temperatures, heat waves have already killed 78 people since late June in Washington State, and another 116 people in Oregon. Homeless people and those who were sick or older make up a signification portion of the death toll.
Oregon was not the only state battling wildfires over the weekend.
In California, the Beckwourth Complex Fire, which started by lightning, had consumed more than 86,000 acres in Plumas National Forest and was 20 percent contained as of Monday morning. It jumped a major highway, U.S. 395, on Saturday, while photos and videos showed buildings, cars and hillsides entirely engulfed in flames.