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Las Vegas blisters all-time record high, hits 120 degrees

Updated July 8, 2024 - 9:30 am

Las Vegas blistered past the previous all-time high temperature record, hitting 120 degrees at 3:38 p.m. Sunday.

“We thought it couldn’t go any higher and then it did,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Ashley Nickerson.

The morning low at Harry Reid International Airport, the official measuring station, was 88 at 5:20 a.m., well short of the July 7 highest low of 93 set in 2018.

The temperature hit 100 at 8:35 a.m. and climbed again to 106 around 10:45 a.m.

The official forecast for the day was 117, said National Weather Service meteorologist Sam Meltzer. The chance of reaching 118 was about 25 percent, he said.

The weather service said Las Vegas tied its daily heat record of 116 degrees around 1:24 p.m.

At 1:56, the official daily high became 117, for the sixth time in Las Vegas weather history.

The temperature flitted between 115 and 118 for an hour and then pushed to 119 and eventually 120.

“We have a bit of southwest breeze today that is keeping us a bit warmer and the high pressure center has moved inland from the California coast so that is making it hotter,” Nickerson said.

Some weather service employees conducted a no-oven cookie baking contest in the office parking lot on South Decatur. They reported it was 215 degrees on the car dashboard when 115 outside.

“The parking lot was melting,” Nickerson quipped.

‘You know where you’re moving to’

Local residents interviewed by the Review-Journal were taking the record-setting temperature Sunday in stride.

“Sure, it’s hot, but that’s only for two and a half months. Then we have nine months of great weather,” said longtime Las Vegas resident Corrine Cole, wife of the late Sands hotel entertainment chief Jack Entratter. “At least you’re not swept away in a flood or something.”

People interviewed in the tree-lined North Tower Park in Summerlin didn’t want to talk for very long, even in the shade.

“I mean today we reached a new high,” said Charlie Rodriguez, 40. “I think that every year it gets hotter, and we just get hit with higher energy costs. And we just have to stay inside.”

“But I mean, we can only do so much, right?,” Rodriguez said. “I think if you live in Las Vegas, you know where you’re moving to. But ultimately, if we don’t like it, we end up moving somewhere else.”

Alan Walsh, 36, originally based in Phoenix, said he was “surprised” about the record Las Vegas heat. “I’m from Arizona. It’s usually hotter there than here.”

But he’s prepared for it. “I used to run cross country in high school. So we practiced in the heat — drink lots of water,” Walsh said.

Minimal problems

FlightAware reported 140 delayed flights at the Las Vegas airport by late afternoon with 13 cancellations. By Sunday evening, delayed flights totaled 444 with 29 total cancelled flights.

NV Energy’s outage website showed seven outages affecting 142 customers as of 4:20 p.m. By Sunday evening those services appeared to be restored on the website.

The record high in Las Vegas was 117 before Sunday. That high occurred five times — July 10, 2021, June 20, 2017; June 30, 2013; July 19, 2005; and July 24, 1942 — before Sunday’s high first tied and then surpassed it.

North Las Vegas Airport reached 118 before 2 p.m. while Henderson Executive Airport was at 115 at 3 p.m.

Monday’s official forecast is a degree or two cooler, Meltzer said. An official 117 is forecast for Tuesday, but the day is likely to be a bit warmer than Monday.

Be prepared

In California’s Death Valley, one person died from the heat and another was hospitalized as the temperature reached 128 degrees, according to The Associated Press.

“Las Vegas residents need to know these are extreme temperatures,” Meltzer said. “People need to be indoors in air conditioning and they need to have water to stay hydrated.”

The three major heat conditions — cramps, exhaustion and stroke — require different methods of treatment. It’s good to be ready if you see a potential victim.

Cooling stations are open during daytime hours at least through Wednesday.

Heat back in the day

While Sunday was the hottest day on official record, measured at Reid airport, the highest temperature in the Las Vegas Valley may have reached much higher over the years, according to Mark Hall-Patton, local historian and former Clark County museum coordinator.

In the early 1930s, before official high temperatures were recorded starting in 1937, the mercury one day reportedly hit 131 degrees and three women died while living in a tent city in Southern Nevada near where Hoover Dam was under construction, Hall-Patton said.

The weather station gauge at the county museum at 1830 S. Boulder Highway in Henderson measured temperatures at 125 degrees twice between 1995 and 2020, Hall-Patton also noted.

How did people in Las Vegas decades ago, before homes had air conditioning, beat the heat?

“They stayed inside, stayed in the shade a lot,” Hall-Patton said. “If you could, you’d send your family to Mount Charleston. In the early days, people would go into a cabin or a camp and wait it out,” Hall-Patton said.

The area’s Paiute Native Americans would migrate for a while to the much-cooler mountain side, where they could survive on the water and food such as pine nuts, Hall-Patton said.

Sheet solutions

But the answer for many Las Vegans in the valley after the town was founded in 1905 was to make use of bedsheets, he said.

“At night you’d take to your bed and wet down the sheets,” he said. “That would make it 10 to 15 degrees cooler. Then at midnight you’d wake up, get up and wet down your sheets.”

Residents would also drape wet sheets over their windows to cool the air blowing into the house, he said.

“You were living in the desert and it was miserable,” he said. “You lived in a way where you are slowing down your method of life to cool you down.”

Hall-Patton learned of Las Vegas’ record-breaking temperature by phone while on vacation Sunday afternoon in the wine country outside San Luis Obispo in northern California, where he said the temperature was only 82 degrees.

“I’ll read about it when I get home,” he said.

Contact Marvin Clemons at mclemons@reviewjournal.com. Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0382. Follow @JeffBurbank2 on X.

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