High overnight temps in Phoenix create dangerous conditions for homeless, low income
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The overnight low in Phoenix Wednesday was 97 degrees, breaking a record for the warmest low temperature in city history.
The Valley never really cooled off before the sun rose, which was followed by another record Wednesday afternoon when Phoenix hit 119 for the first time since 2017. Wednesday also marks the 20th consecutive day of temps above 110, making everyday activities like getting groceries challenging for many in the Valley.
“My lungs aren’t used to breathing in hot air, and it wants to brace itself. So that’s weird. And my legs are cramping and I’m feeling like I’m gonna have a heat exhaustion moment. I have before, and it gets scary,” said one Valley woman walking home from the grocery store.
Heat waves are nothing new to Phoenix. But this year marks the longest consecutive streak of high heat, shattering the record set in 1974.
“We are supposed to be cooling off, but we’re not,” said State Climatologist Erinanne Saffell.
But what makes this heat wave different from others? The overnight lows.
“Phoenix has one of the largest heat islands in the world, and what that means is the sidewalks, asphalt, and buildings are holding onto that sunlight. And they are releasing it very slowly at night,” Saffell said. She added that Phoenix has grown since the 70s and so has the usage of materials that trap heat.
“When we are looking at hot temperatures during the day, those are harmful to folks,” she said. “But if we can cool off at night and temps cool off, then that’s better for handling those hot temps. Because heat accumulates in the body.”
Saffell says this is alarming and dangerous for those who live or work in these conditions. What would really help in the immediate short term is a monsoon.
“When we are not cooling off at night, then our bodies aren’t cooling off effectively,” Saffell says. “And we know we feel that when we are tossing and turning and can’t sleep. Those are impacts to people.”
Other things that can help: white paint roofs and buildings. Planting more trees in the Valley that provide shade would make a big difference.
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