Record-breaking temps in the Southwest: How to beat extreme heat

With highs of 115 to 120 degrees F., predicted for the coming week, people living in in the Southwest are advised to stay indoors and keep cool.

Anna Johnson/AP
Hotel guests cool off at the pool at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort and Spa in Paradise Valley, Ariz., on Sunday.

As record-breaking temperatures across the Southwest soar into triple digits and beyond, residents are advised to take caution in the extreme heat. 

The heatwave claimed at least two lives over the weekend: a Phoenix man who died of heat exposure while hiking in neighboring Pinal County on Saturday, and a woman who became unresponsive while mountain biking in north Phoenix Sunday morning and died several hours later. 

With global temperatures continually rising, the number and range of communities facing intense prolonged heatwaves is expected to grow, according to climate scientists. Regions like the Southwest that are already accustomed to high temperatures can lend solutions for regions that may be less prepared for sudden rises in temperature.

The current heatwave in the Southwest doesn't show any sign of abating anytime soon, as meteorologists predict highs of around 115 to 120 degrees F., in the coming days with especially high temperatures in Southern California.

To avoid any further heat-related injuries and fatalities, "outdoor activities should be severely limited if not avoided completely" until the heat lets up, advised AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Matt Rinde. 

In the meantime, there are some simple strategies that can help those living in hot areas cope with the heat. 

Older adults, young children, and those who are most vulnerable to high temperatures. Those living in urban areas are also at a greater risk, since stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality can exacerbate the effects of extreme heat. 

To prepare, recommends checking air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation, and insulating window air conditioners if necessary. Installing temporary window reflectors, like aluminum foil-covered cardboard, can reflect heat back outside, and weather-stripping doors and window sills will keep cool air inside. 

For those caught in the midst of a heatwave, staying indoors as much as possible is recommended – ideally on the lowest level of a building, if there's no air conditioning. If you want to get out of the house, consider heading to a public building such as a library, school, movie theater, or shopping mall; the circulating air can help cool you down.

The US Environmental Protection Agency advises local officials to provide community cooling centers, particularly in areas with low-income, elderly, or young populations. It also recommends establishing a hotline or other system to alert public health officials about high-risk individuals. 

The following tips can help mitigate the heat:

  • Wear loose, lightweight clothes that cover as much skin as possible, and avoid dark colors. 
  • Reach for a glass of water when you feel yourself getting thirsty, and even before you feel yourself getting thirsty. Limit alcoholic drinks, and avoid caffeinated ones. 
  • Pets should not be kept outdoors, as this could result in a heat stroke or sunburn, and must also never be left alone in a closed vehicle. If your home loses power during the heatwave, go to a designated public shelter.

The heat is expected to remain constant in the West and expand into the middle of the country by midweek, according to Reynolds Wolf, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel. 

"It's like you take a salt shaker of madness and sprinkle it" over the Western half of the country, Mr. Wolf told NBC News. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press. 

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