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Las Vegas ties hot weather record with 117 reading

Updated June 20, 2017 - 7:38 pm

Las Vegas has never been hotter.

The temperature hit 117 degrees at 4:07 p.m. Tuesday, tying the all-time high, according to the National Weather Service.

The city had only been as hot three other times: June 30, 2013; July 19, 2005; and July 24, 1942. This is the earliest it happened.

Tourists James and Nina Thomasson, walking under the shaded canopy on Fremont Street on Tuesday afternoon, agreed it was hot but said they appreciated the low humidity. When temperatures hit the 90s in their hometown of Mobile, Alabama, “it feels like you’re swimming in a pool of sweat,” said Nina.

Despite the relative dryness, the couple stuck to Gatorade instead of alcohol to ensure that they remained on their feet throughout their 30th anniversary celebration.

The weather records started to fall before dawn on the last day of spring. The Tuesday morning low of 88 degrees at the valley’s official weather station at McCarran International Airport eclipsed the previous mark of 86 as the highest overnight low for June 20 in Las Vegas, meteorologist Barry Pierce said.

Then, when the temperature hit 116 just before 4 p.m., it officially became the hottest June 20 on record, breaking the previous mark of 115 set last year.

The normal high for this date is 100.

Temperatures the next two days were expected to be slightly lower, with a forecast high of 116 degrees Wednesday and 114 degrees Thursday.

The weekend highs are expected to dip to 112, Pierce said.

Heat-related death confirmed

There has been one confirmed heat-related death in June, the first for 2017, according to the Clark County coroner’s office, though more are expected as other recent death investigations are completed. The victim, an 49-year-old man, died June 6. In 2016, 98 people died of heat exposure.

The Las Vegas Fire Department received 65 heat-related calls between Wednesday and Sunday and 32 on Monday alone, according to the department’s Twitter feed.

Those totals don’t reflect calls that aren’t initially flagged as heat-related, spokesman Tim Szymanski said.

The elderly, infants and people with pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes and congestive heart failure are at greatest risk for heat-related complications, including dehydration and heat stroke, Szymanski said. The department advises people to stay indoors and keep a water bottle handy at all times, especially when they’re outside or sitting in traffic.

Heat-related injuries and deaths most often occur among the homeless and tourists, who aren’t accustomed to the extreme heat, Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Jon Klassen said.

Ramon Reyes, who was manning the Las Vegas Tobacco Co. booth on Fremont and Fourth streets, said he spotted several people on the sidewalk Tuesday after apparently being overcome. Though the booth is outside, Reyes said he ducks into a nearby hotel every 15 minutes to grab a mouthful of ice.

“I’m not out here putting myself in the heat for no reason, but you do definitely have to stay hydrated,” he said. “You get used to it. You learn to manage.”

There are 10 cooling stations in Las Vegas open this week, where people can escape and grab a bottle of water. The Shade Tree, a 24-hour cooling station open through Sept. 30 at 1 W. Owens Ave., has seen a 12 percent uptick in daily visitors since the start of the heat wave.

In addition to a 33-ounce water bottle, the Shade Tree gives visitors a meal while they cool off, spokeswoman Zakeisha Steele Jones said.

Travel disruptions possible

In addition to posing a health risk, the heat can disrupt travel.

At least one departing flight at McCarran International Airport was canceled Tuesday and two others were delayed from taking off because of the heat, airport spokeswoman Christine Crews said. It was unclear which carriers were affected.

Four flights Monday were also delayed, she said.

Because heat creates thin air, making it difficult for aircraft filled with passengers, cargo and fuel to lift off, some airlines prefer to use Runway 7L, the longest at the airport, when the temperature hits triple digits, Crews said. Located on the south end of the airport, Runway 7L has a downward incline that allows planes to get more speed and lift during takeoff.

Air carriers sometimes delay departures until the weather cools down or bump passengers to lighten the load during takeoff.

The extreme temperatures also put a strain on the power grid, especially when demand peaks between 5 and 6 p.m. as residents arrive home from work and turn down their thermostats. NV Energy spokeswoman Jennifer Schuricht said power use Tuesday was expected to be about 14 percent higher than it is on a summer day with a high of 110.

Cool as cats

Temperatures soared across the Southwest on Tuesday. It was 122 in Laughlin, 119 in Phoenix and 126 at the visitor center at Death Valley National Park in California.

The animals at the Lion Habitat Ranch in Henderson rode out the hottest day of the year so far the way a lot of valley residents did: by parking themselves in front of their air conditioners.

“All our cats and animals have swamp coolers in their den boxes, and all our dogs and birds have misters,” said Keith Evans, owner of the exotic animal attraction near Bermuda Road and St. Rose Parkway.

That includes Ozzie, the 13-foot-tall giraffe, who can escape the heat inside an air-conditioned barn with a vaulted ceiling.

Evans’ menagerie also features 36 lions and about a dozen exotic birds, from parrots to ostriches. But just because they have easy access to coolers, that doesn’t mean they always use them. Evans said the lions tend to spend at least part of the day lounging in the shade of their enclosures as the swamp coolers whir away in their empty dens.

“They don’t have the slightest care at all about that power bill,” he said.

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter. Contact Jessie Bekker at jbekker@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4563. Follow @jessiebekks on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Art Marroquin and Dana Rutkin also contributed to this story.

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