God to Sin City: You’re gonna fry

It’s going to be hot today. And tomorrow. And the next day and the next.

Not just hot. Like, extremely hot. No. XX-TREEMELY HAWT, so hot you need to make up a new spelling to get your message across.

It’s going to be so hot that one of the meteorologists at the local National Weather Service’s digs started spouting words like “parcel theory” and “millibars,” and the guy from the power company said they’ve been planning for an event like this for decades.

Every government agency and its mom is tossing out safety tips, hoping some of them stick. Heck, the city of Las Vegas even cancelled its movie in the park festivities, scheduled for tonight. It’s just too dangerous.

Even the Regional Transportation Commission is getting extra buses ready and asking its mechanics to be on standby all weekend.

Why does this happen to us? We can stand 105 degrees. We laugh it off.

Haha!

That’s us.

And then it’s 110, and we get uncomfortable. But it’s the desert, we say. We knew this was going to happen.

It cools back down to 104 and we begin to laugh again, mocking our East Coast friends who whine and cry like babies when it hits 97 degrees.

Then a couple years go by, and we get complacent and we don’t remember that the last time it hit 117 degrees we actually had flashbacks to that one time in childhood that we opened the oven door to look at the Thanksgiving turkey and we did not know that a blast of super-heated air was coming and it whacked us in the face like a demonic hair dryer and we staggered back because we thought we were going to die right there in the kitchen with all the grown-up relatives not having a clue.

That’s when this happens.

It’s going to be 120 degrees somewhere in town this weekend, probably a couple degrees cooler at the official measuring station at McCarran International Airport.

Mike Kennedy, the weather service meteorologist, said something about an “abnormally strong ridge of high pressure.” It was hard to follow.

“It’s quite anomalous,” he said.

What’s that mean in English?

Scientists measure things like the air pressure way up high, about 5,000 feet up, to get a clue about what kind of weather is coming.

The last time we had a heat wave like the one that’s about to smack us was in 2005, when we hit the all-time high of 117 and we topped 115 degrees four days in a row. The pressure up there was “anomalous” then.

It’s higher this time.

“There haven’t been many times in history where that’s happened,” Kennedy said.

This, in effect, turns the entire Southwestern United States into a pressure cooker.

Specifically, the National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning, which means it really is dangerous out there, not just uncomfortable. This warning runs through 8 p.m. Monday.

Temps will be near 118 all weekend. It’ll be hotter on the east side of the valley and at Lake Mead. It might hit 130 at Death Valley.

When this happened in 2005, 17 people died locally in 10 days from heat-related causes, the weather service said.

Already this year, a Boy Scout leader, 69-year-old Clawson Bowman Jr., died June 8 from heat exposure while hiking near Lake Mead.

The lesson is to drink. A lot. There’s no such thing as too much.

Stay indoors during the day. Check on your elderly neighbors. Call 911 if someone is experiencing cramping, heavy sweating, weakness, pale or clammy skin, a fast but weak pulse and nausea or vomiting.

This is why local officials are opening cooling stations for the next few days. They do it any time the Weather Service issues an excessive heat warning.

Michele Fuller-Hallauer, the continuum of care coordinator for the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition, said cooling stations save lives.

The agency uses guidelines developed in conjunction with the Weather Service and the coroner’s office.

It’s that serious. Especially for the homeless, who aren’t always in the best health to begin with.

For those who have a place to go, NVEnergy promises you won’t have a problem.

“We’re ready,” said Greg Kern, executive of resource optimization at the power company. “Our planning for this heat wave started 20 years ago.”

He said the company has built redundancies into its system so if there’s a failure somewhere, they’ll be able to quickly reroute power to get your air conditioner humming again.

He said they’ll have extra staff on alert, just in case.

“This is what we’re here for,” he said.

This is happening because we live in the desert, of course.

But why here? Why not Nashville, which is at the same latitude? Or Yokohama, Japan, also at the same latitude?

Blame the jet stream. Blame the Earth’s tilt. Blame the mysterious other planet that scientists think smacked into the Earth billions of years ago and caused us to be crooked in the first place, which causes the jet stream to shift its comfy spot circling the planet from season to season, which causes a pretty stable high pressure system to settle south of here in the winter, and pretty much right on top of us in the summer.

Kelly Redmond, the deputy director and regional climatologist at the Desert Research Institute’s Western Regional Climate Center, said high pressure systems by their very nature suppress clouds and moisture in the air.

That’s why it’s so dry here.

He noted a couple of things about this summer in particular. When we hit 112 degrees on June 8, that was the earliest we’d ever hit 112. Overall, the first three weeks of June were the hottest ever.

But that’s tolerable, right?

“When do you have a right to start complaining about the heat in Las Vegas?” wondered Redmond, who lives up in Reno. “We know it’s hot there, but when does it reach the point where it’s OK to complain?”

Oh, maybe 118?

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307.

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