US Heatwave: Dire warnings issued as oppressive weather unfolds

That has warned leaders across the country: go to a cool place and see at a time.

But parts of the Ohio Valley and Northeast — including New York City, Philadelphia and Boston — are also on heat alert Wednesday and are expected to remain hot at least through the weekend.

In New York, residents are being urged to stay indoors in the coming days to avoid the “hazardous conditions that can lead to heat stress and illness,” said Jackie Bray, commissioner of the state’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.
In Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu declared a heat emergency through Thursday and announced at least 12 community centers will be open to anyone looking to cool off. More than 50 paddling pools will be available in city parks and playgrounds, she said.

“It is clear that a changing climate poses a risk to our health,” the mayor said. “I urge everyone to stay cool and safe and check on your neighbors during the week.”

Connecticut’s governor activated the state’s extreme heat protocol through Sunday, which will help in part ensure cooling centers are available.

Philadelphia declared a “heat warning” Tuesday noon through Thursday evening, urging people not to be outside and to use air conditioners or fans from noon to 5 p.m., the city said in an email to CNN.

The heatwave comes as President Joe Biden was set to announce new funding for communities experiencing extreme heat and steps to boost the offshore wind industry during a speech at a disused coal-fired power plant in Massachusetts on Wednesday.
And it’s not just the US: the climate crisis has sent weather around the world to the extreme, and this week a searing heatwave also swept across Europe.
Stay cool without air conditioning
Water is for sale outside a grocery store on Staten Island on a hot Tuesday afternoon in New York City.

Record highs were set in Oklahoma and Texas on Tuesday

The south-central US has already seen brutal temperatures over the past few days. Multiple record temperatures for that particular day were set in Texas and Oklahoma on Tuesday. That includes Wichita Falls, Texas, where 115 degrees on Tuesday broke a record of 112 set in 2018.
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As of Tuesday, the Austin area had hit 100 degrees on 38 of the last 44 days, according to the National Weather Service.

“We are asking people to conserve electricity to keep systems working,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said Wednesday. “We’re asking everyone to do this so we can get through this together.”

The heat is struggling with the air conditioners. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates about 90% of Texas’ electric grid, set a one-day record for electricity demand on Tuesday and another record is expected on Wednesday, an ERCOT spokesman said.

In Oklahoma, where temperatures were highest 100 degrees In much of the state, extreme heat and drought have caused wildfires and rural water system outages Tuesday, Keli Cain, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, told CNN.

The heat is contributing to bursting water lines in some Oklahoma communities, leading those communities to advise residents to boil their water. Because Oklahoma’s predominant soil type is loam, extreme temperatures constrict the soil, causing the soil to shift and pipes to rupture, according to the water division of the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Many communities are adopting water rationing policies, department spokeswoman Erin Hatfield said.

“In addition to line breaks, we are seeing water pressure drops due to increased water demand, and some communities are not able to fully fill water towers overnight,” Hatfield said.

Little Rock, Arkansas recorded its 10th day this year with temperatures of at least 100 degrees on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. The service warned Wednesday will be “another brutal day” with both hot temperatures and dangerous heat indexes.

In Texas, some prisons are without air conditioning

A number of correctional facilities across Texas do not have working air conditioning, the Texas Department of Justice said.

Not everyone can afford air conditioning during a brutal heat wave.  That's how they get along

“There are 100 units (Texas Department of Criminal Justice), 31 have full air conditioning, 55 have partial air conditioning and 14 have no air conditioning. We are taking numerous precautions to reduce the impact of hot temperatures on those detained in our facilities,” Amanda Hernandez, a spokesman for the department, told CNN in an email.

The state has had at least four heatwaves this season, a heatwave that has been affecting residents before summer officially began. And with the ongoing heat, some in the criminal justice system have become ill with heat-related injuries.

“In 2022, there were seven inmates who required medical care beyond first aid for heat-related injuries,” Hernandez said. “None was fatal.”

Chief Heat Officers help cities cope

As longer stretches of excessive heat have become more common, some local governments have hired chief heat officers to help direct the response.

Miami-Dade County Chief Heat Officer Jane Gilbert told CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday that Miami now has almost double the number of days with a heat index above 90 degrees than it did in the 1970s.

Hot records are beating cool records by more than 10 to 1 this year as Europe and the US brace for dangerous heat

“And we’re getting many, many more days with the heat index, the more extreme readings of 103, 105,” Gilbert said. “This not only affects people’s health, but also their wallets. Our outdoor workers cannot work long hours, they lose working hours. People can’t afford that air conditioner, the higher cost of electricity. It is both a health and an economic crisis. “

Those without air conditioning can stay cool by leaving windows open, using fans and draping cold towels around their necks, Gilbert said. She also suggested people check on their friends, family and neighbors.

“The elderly, young children and people with certain health conditions may be more vulnerable to the heat. It’s really important to look after those people and make sure they are able to take care of themselves,” Gilbert said.

David Hondula, director of the Office of Heat Response and Mitigation for Phoenix, echoed that assessment, saying, “Heat can affect anyone, we are all at risk.”

Hondula suggested paying special attention to community members who may not have access to regular housing.

“For example, if we see someone sleeping outside in the sun on a hot surface, don’t assume they’re just napping. There could be a true medical emergency there and a 911 call may be required,” he said.

Why heat and humidity are particularly dangerous

Heat is one of the top weather-related causes of death in the United States, according to Kimberly McMahon, program manager for public weather services at the National Weather Service.

“Heat affects everyone by limiting the body’s ability to cool down,” McMahon said.

High humidity only further limits this ability.

“Sweating removes 22% of excess body heat by redirecting heat to evaporate sweat,” said CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford. “High humidity means there is more moisture in the air. Because there is significantly more moisture in the air, sweat evaporates more slowly, resulting in a slowdown in your body’s natural ability to cool. A day with high humidity can feel significantly hotter than the actual air temperature.”

Too much heat and humidity can lead to heat-related illnesses, including heat cramps, heat rash, heat exhaustion “and — worst of all — heat stroke, which can be fatal,” McMahon said.

This is what happens to your body in extreme heat
According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an average of 702 heat-related deaths and 9,235 hospitalizations per year nationwide. And the threat is only increasing, according to the agency.

“Extreme heat is a real threat and needs to be taken seriously,” added McMahon.

Those more vulnerable to the high temperatures include outdoor workers, pregnant women, people with heart or lung conditions, young children, older adults and athletes, according to the CDC.

CNN’s Michelle Watson, Dave Hennen, Joe Sutton, Rebekah Riess, Paradise Afshar and Mike Saenz contributed to this report.

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