(Adds details of people treated, cooling centers, latest
By Brad Poole
TUCSON, Ariz., June 29 Dozens of people were
treated for heat-related symptoms and many towns and cities
across the western United States took emergency steps to help
residents cool off, as the region sweltered on Saturday in
dangerous triple-digit temperatures.
Extreme heat enveloped most of California and Nevada and
parts of southern Arizona as a large high-pressure system
trapped hot air across the area, National Weather Service
meteorologist Todd Lericos said.
"It involves pretty much the entire West Coast at this
point," Lericos said, adding that the steamy conditions, which
began in some areas on Thursday afternoon, would likely continue
throughout the weekend and linger into next week.
In Los Angeles County, many people have been hospitalized or
treated for dehydration, exhaustion and heat stroke, said Keith
Mora, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
At an outdoor concert in Las Vegas on Friday, 34 people were
taken to the hospital after succumbing to the heat and another
170 suffered nausea and fatigue.
There were fears that migrants attempting to cross into the
United States from Mexico would die in the desert. More border
agents were added on the U.S. side, said Brent Cagen, a
spokesman for the Tucson sector of the U.S. Border Patrol.
At least three people, maybe more, who attempted to
illegally cross the border into Arizona were found dead this
week, likely succumbing to the heat, Cagen said.
The scorching temperatures can cause potentially fatal heat
stroke, Lericos said, noting that those with no air-conditioning
or who must work outdoors were particularly at risk.
Temperatures by noon local time on Saturday had already
reached 115 Fahrenheit (46 Celsius) in Phoenix, 109F (42C) in
Tucson, Arizona, and 111F (43C) in Las Vegas and could hit highs
of 120F (48C) or more, according to the National Weather
The Running with the Devil Marathon scheduled for Saturday
in the Mojave Desert outside of Las Vegas, which is designed so
runners are "challenged to contend with high heat," was
Officials across California, Nevada, and Arizona set up
air-conditioned "cooling centers" in community centers, homeless
shelters and libraries, and warned residents to avoid prolonged
exposure to the searing temperatures.
In Phoenix, emergency shelters are temporarily adding 150
beds in an effort to safeguard hundreds of homeless.
"Phoenix is a major city with a lot of concrete that tends
to hold a lot of that heat in, so it's just like you're in a dry
sauna," said Irene Agustin of the Central Arizona Shelter
Services non-profit in Phoenix.
In Nevada, officials in Clark County, which includes Las
Vegas, said they have installed 13 air-conditioned areas in
community centers and homeless shelters, though the majority of
them would be closed on Sunday.
In 2005, roughly 17 people died during an equivalent heat
wave over a 10-day period in the Las Vegas area.
Firefighters worry about dry conditions, which have ignited
several major brush fires across the region recently, and about
more blazes ignited by wayward fireworks launched from backyards
to commemorate the Fourth of July holiday.
In Southern California's Death Valley, one of the hottest
places on earth, temperatures could soar on Saturday to 128F
(53C), close to the record set on this day in 1994. By noon the
temperature was 114F (45C).
Dan Kail, 67, was on vacation in Las Vegas when he heard
about the triple-digit temperature readings in Death Valley.
He hopped in a rental car and made the 2-1/2 hour drive,
yearning to feel air that he later described as a "blast
"I've never experienced that kind of heat," said Kail, who
owns parking lots in Pittsburgh. "It almost burns you as it
blows by you. It's amazing."
Tucson mechanic Rick Riesgo, 55, was finishing a round of
golf on Saturday morning with the temperature already well over
"I just make sure I drink a lot of water ... until 10 a.m.,
then I drink a lot of beer," he said smiling as he headed for
the clubhouse to cool off.
The tigers at the Phoenix Zoo were fed frozen trout, the
monkeys are getting frozen yogurt, and lions and other animals
can lounge on artificial rocks and slabs of concrete cooled by
piped water, said Linda Hardwick, a zoo spokeswoman.
While most people were retreating inside air-conditioned
buildings, an organizer of the Las Vegas Bikini Invitational
beauty pageant on Sunday said contestants would brave the heat
for the outdoor event.
"We have a beautiful pool suite set up for the contestants
to relax in between rounds," said Roni Taylor-Parsons, an event
spokeswoman. "We will be serving frozen fruit to all cabana
guests as well as having a lot of water and frozen Popsicles on
(Reporting by Brad Poole; Writing by Eric Johnson; Additional
reporting by Timothy Pratt in Las Vegas, and Marty Graham in San
Diego; Editing by Greg McCune and Eric Beech)