At least 5 hikers dead in Arizona as record-breaking heat scorches southwestern US
By By Jordan Root, AccuWeather Meteorolgist
June 24, 2016, 5:42:54 AM EDT
Heat will continue to plague the southwestern United States early this week after a brutal weekend that led to at least four deaths.
At least five hikers died in separate incidents in Arizona where temperatures soared to record levels in some areas.
Pima County police issued a statement encouraging people to limit physical activities during “extreme temperatures.”
The heat also led to some travel delays. Minutes before landing in Phoenix on Sunday, a Mesa Airlines flight was forced to turn back to its departure point in Houston due to the heat.
Phoenix broke a daily record and recorded its fifth highest all-time temperature on Sunday, hitting 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
Extreme heat can affect airline equipment, making for unsafe landing conditions.
Firefighters continued to battle raging wildfires in eight states throughout the region over the weekend.
“The exceptionally hot and dry weather will continue to keep the fire threat elevated,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Carl Erickson said.
While winds on a large scale have not been overly strong, localized wind events are exacerbating some of the fires, including the Sherpa Fire west of Santa Barbara, California.
The Sherpa Fire has burned nearly 8,000 acres and about 80 percent of the perimeter is contained. More than 1,600 personnel are working to put out the blaze, according to InciWeb.
The fire burned a water treatment building at El Capitan state beach and damaged avocado, lemon and olive crops, according to the LA Times.
Periods of sundowner winds could create even more hazardous conditions. Sundowner winds are caused by a north to south movement of air from the mountains to the coast. This causes the air to warm and become drier and often leads to gustier winds.
Two additional fires, the Fish Fire and Reservoir Fire, were burning near Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County Fire Department reported that the fires combined into one event, called the San Gabriel Complex. The blaze has burned about 4,900 acres and is at 10 percent containment. In addition, the fire has forced 770 homes to be evacuated.
The winds are often channeled through passes which can lead to strengthening. All of these factors can fuel wildfires and make them larger.
Another fire, outside of San Diego, forced the evacuation of about 600 homes and more than 1,500 people in Lake Morena Village, California, the Associated Press said.
In New Mexico, the Dog Head Fire, located southeast of Albuquerque, continues to burn. This fire has destroyed 24 homes and 21 other minor structures.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency on Tuesday for Navajo County as firefighters battle the Cedar Fire, which has burned 40,000 acres and is 22 percent contained.
The ridge of high pressure will continue to push the storm track across Canada and the far northern tier of the United States, keeping any widespread rainfall from dropping southward.
Though the heat will ease slightly toward the end of the week, dry weather will continue to raise the wildfire threat.
Content contributed by AccuWeather Staff Writer Katy Galimberti.
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