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Severe Thunderstorm Watch

Historical Heat Wave Expanding Across the West

By By Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist.
July 02, 2013, 2:23:13 AM EDT

An atmospheric blast furnace is at full throttle this weekend over the interior West with heat reaching dangerous levels, challenging records and elevating the wildfire threat.

While many folks over the interior West are accustomed to and expect hot weather during the summer, this pattern is taking the heat to the extreme. In some cities, record highs for any date throughout the year could be equaled or breached.

Cities that could set new annual extreme temperature marks include Flagstaff and Phoenix, Ariz., and Las Vegas and Reno, Nev.

In Flagstaff, Ariz., the all-time record high is 97 set on July 5, 1973. At Phoenix, the all-time record high is 122 degrees set on June 26, 1990. In Las Vegas, the all-time record high is 117 degrees set on July 19, 2005, and July 24, 1942. At Reno, the all-time high is 108 degrees set most recently on July 5, 2007. Death Valley, Calif., should top its hottest June temperature on record of 128 degrees set June 30, 1994.

The heat is so intense that Death Valley will approach the world's hottest temperature record Sunday and Monday.


New June record highs were already set or equaled in Salt Lake City, Utah, Needles, Calif., and Kingman, Ariz., on Friday. More records were set on Saturday in Phoenix, Ariz., Elko, Nev., and Palm Springs, Calif.

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Cities that will continue to experience record-challenging heat on a daily basis during the pattern into next week include Las Vegas, Nev., Phoenix, Ariz., Salt Lake City, Utah, Boise, Idaho, Medford, Ore., and Fresno, Calif.

According to Western Weather Expert Ken Clark, "People driving through desert areas during the pattern should make sure their vehicle can make the journey and that they carry extra water in case their vehicle breaks down."

More numerous communities across the Northwest, such as Seattle and Spokane, Wash., and Pendleton, Ore., will join this list early next week as the heat expands northward.


The absence of an offshore flow will allow the beaches to stay comfortable during this extremely hot spell.

As temperatures soar to record-challenging levels, drying brush and the potential for spotty thunderstorms will push the wildfire threat to new areas and raise the risk in other locations.


The system producing the heat and sunshine will allow widely separated, pop-up thunderstorms with time. Most of the storms will form and die over the mountains, but there will be a few exceptions.

A few locations can receive a downpour. However, many of the storms will bring little or no rainfall. This phenomena, commonly called "dry lightning," can spark new wildfires.


While the natural spark for wildfires cannot be avoided, people are urged to be very careful when using outdoor power equipment and open flames. Never park a vehicle that has been running for any length of time over dry grass and brush as the hot exhaust can start a fire. Don't throw burning cigarettes out of your vehicle.

Building heat, drought and the risk of wildfires could result in a fireworks ban in some communities as Independence Day activities increase.

This story was originally published on Monday, June 24, 2013, and has been updated by Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.

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