It's late August, and Las Vegas is finally getting its heat wave.
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat watch Tuesday, which saw a record high of 110 degrees, with another record of 111 predicted today and near-record highs through Saturday.
It will be the hottest week so far this year, forecasters said.
Officials urged people to take extra precautions if outdoors to avoid heat exhaustion or stroke, including staying out of the sun and drinking plenty of water.
The watch, which will continue into Saturday, also prompted the opening of cooling stations that cater to the homeless and people without air conditioning.
Staying cool was the goal of more than 170 men who gathered Tuesday at the Catholic Charities shelter on Las Vegas Boulevard North. While the number of clients at the summertime day shelter was barely above average, the men were grateful for a cup of water out of the sun.
"The sun takes a toll on me," said David Cobo, 49.
Cobo is handicapped. His arms are heavily scarred from a motorcycle wreck several years ago, and he uses a walker to compensate for a broken leg.
"I'm also a diabetic, so this is an excellent place to get out of the heat," he said.
The cooling station at the nearby Dula Gymnasium on Bonanza Road near downtown was empty Tuesday, a situation that recreation leader Eldrick Dickens attributed to the fact that homeless people -- the demographic most in need of a place with drinking water out of the sun -- have no way of knowing the stations are open.
"As the week moves on, more people will hear about us by word of mouth," Dickens said. "We will fill up."
HOTTEST WEEK OF YEAR
August has been hotter than average after May, June and the first three weeks of July boasted below-average heat for the region, weather service forecasters said. This week, the last full week of the month, is going to be the hottest so far.
The desert areas around Las Vegas also are having a scorching week. High temperatures of 117 and 122 are predicted for Lake Mead and Death Valley, respectively, although different temperatures are predicted by the Review-Journal's weather page service. Lake Mead is usually hotter than Las Vegas itself.
The heat watch also is in effect in southern Nye County, including Pahrump; northwest Arizona; the eastern and western Mojave Desert; and San Bernardino County, Calif.
While the official temperature is measured at McCarran International Airport, temperatures vary significantly throughout the Las Vegas Valley.
The temperatures are expected to reach highs of 113 on the east side of the valley today and be about 10 degrees cooler on the west side, according to the weather service. Thursday will be even hotter, hitting 116 on the east side and 106 on the west side.
Heat advisories are issued when high temperatures are going to stick around long enough to cause heat-related illnesses, generally over a 36-hour period.
Heat kills more people in the United States than floods, quakes and tornadoes, the weather service said. More Americans suffer heat-related deaths in the summer than from cold in the winter.
And because men sweat more than women do, they are more susceptible to heat illnesses because of dehydration, the weather service said.
The symptoms for heat exhaustion include weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, rapid breathing and fainting.
Heat stroke can develop if heat exhaustion is left untreated. It occurs when the body no longer can cool itself and is characterized by vomiting, confusion and a rapid pulse. In some cases the afflicted person can lapse into unconsciousness. It can be fatal.
Besides the special cooling stations, some long-term summertime day shelters are open to those seeking relief.
They include Catholic Charities, 1501 Las Vegas Blvd. North, for men, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the Salvation Army, 31 W. Owens Ave., North Las Vegas, for men, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Shade Tree, for women and children, at 1 W. Owens, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The good news for those who don't fare well in the heat is that they will have adequate electricity to run their air conditioners.
Greg Kern, an executive with NV Energy, said valley power consumers have pushed the utility to its peak with temperatures hovering at 111 degrees, something he predicts will occur again today and possibly Thursday.
Still, he's not worried that the utility will fail to keep up with demand.
"This year we're really ready for this heat," said Kern, mentioning the Harry Allen generating station north of Las Vegas, which went online earlier this year. "We're not sweating this heat yet."
Kern said consumers easily use twice as much electricity during the summer months than any other time of the year, but there are steps to mitigate costs.
They include leaving thermostats at 78 to 80 degrees rather than lower, keeping shades drawn and the sun out during daylight hours, and changing air conditioner filters each month.
Contact reporter Doug McMurdo at dmcmurdo@review journal.com or 702-224-5512.