As the heat engulfed Tucson, Arizona, on Sunday afternoon, six people, part of a new aid group they call Gator-Aid, dropped seven-pound bags of Reddy Ice onto the hot sidewalks and loaded coolers with hundreds of bottles of water and Gatorade .
Every Sunday for the past month, the group has brought drinks to downtown Tucson and distributed them to those in need, they said.
“You can see how badly people need it,” said one of the volunteers, Hershey Long, 35. “It’s great to see that people can have some relief.”
Within 40 minutes, there were only four bottles of water left. A few hours later, volunteers returned with stored supplies. They found the Tucson Fire Department treating a man with a heat-related illness. Paramedics draped wet towels over him and loaded him into an ambulance.
People across the South and West have been scrambling to find relief for the past week, a task that could become even more daunting as a new heatwave threatens to settle over the Southwest over the coming week.
The heat wave, caused by a “heat dome” of high pressure, is now stationed over the desert Southwest. Experts estimate that more than 50 million people across the United States live in areas expected to have dangerous levels of heat.
A range of excessive heat warnings and heat warnings were in place across the region over the weekend. On Friday, the National Weather Service said that the conditions in Arizona “rivaled some of the worst heat waves that area has ever seen.”
Those outside an air-conditioned comfort dome had it the worst. On Sunday, a few dozen people gathered in Santa Rita Park near downtown Tucson. Some collected bottled water from the Gator-Aid group; others took it with them.
Joseph Whittaker, 51, said he drank three jugs of water in a nearby kitchen every morning.
“I’m dying – I have third stage kidney disease so I need water more than you do,” Mr Whittaker said.
Mateo Calderón, 59, originally from San Luis Potosí, Mexico, is spending his second summer in Tucson. He pays 200 dollars a month to park in someone’s yard. He sleeps in his car, or, when it’s too hot, on a row of couch cushions on the ground.
He can go into the house to shower, store food and fill with water. Mr. Calderón explained how important it is to drink water.
“I used to go to cooling centers, last year, but they are far away,” he said. Now, he chases shade during the day, and just tries to stay hydrated.
Typically, Arizona faces its hottest temperatures in June and July, Gabriel Lojero, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Phoenix, said Sunday, so the timing of this heat is not unusual. But what is of concern, he said, is the longevity of the extreme heat.
So far, the Weather Service has recorded nine consecutive days of temperatures above 110 degrees in Arizona, Mr. Lojero said, and the longest stretch the state has seen of consecutive days above 110 degrees was 18, in 1974.
“Looking at the current forecasts that we have, we are expecting temperatures of at least 110 or more for at least the next seven to eight days and possibly longer,” Mr. Lojero said, adding that this streak could potentially break the 18-day streak. a record
Isaac Smith, another National Weather Service meteorologist in Arizona, said that “we’re going to be looking at these very warm temperatures continuing into the next week.” The Weather Service, he added, expects highs to continue to stay above 110 degrees each day. “That’s pretty important to us,” Mr. Smith said. “Even by Phoenix standards.”
“People should definitely take precautions to protect themselves from the heat,” Mr Smith added. “People need to remember that heat is the #1 weather-related killer in the United States”
A a report published by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health last month found that there were 425 heat-related deaths in the county in 2022, up 25 percent from the previous year. More than half of the heat-related deaths occurred in the month of July, according to the report, and 107 of the deaths occurred on days with an excessive heat warning.
However, throughout the region, people are finding ways to do and appreciate how much heat this year is extraordinary, and how much it just feels like summer in the South and the Southwest.
At Heights Mercantile Farmers’ Market in Houston on Sunday, farmers and retailers reflected on the heat so far, and were prepared for the rest of the summer.
Xander Hernandez, 29, a private chef and sales representative for the farmers at Animal Farm in Cat Spring, Texas, said the extreme heat is killing the farm’s crops like lettuce, spinach, kale and cabbage.
The lack of water was difficult, Mr. Hernandez said, adding that he had more produce last year.
Drew Blomstrong, 34, who farms about 45 minutes from Houston, said that while the heat was “brutal,” it wasn’t anything he “can’t handle or handle.”
However, he said: “It’s almost as if spring never happened. We skipped planting for some types of produce because of the intense heat.”
Others at the market said they didn’t notice much of a difference in their crops. Brian Findeisen, who works full-time at Erbe Ranch in Cat Spring Texas, said he hasn’t noticed anything different and hasn’t changed anything on his ranch to adapt to the heat.
“Every year is different. Realistically, I don’t think I’ve seen anything really crazy so far,” said Mr. Findeisen, who said he was guided by a family journal that he uses to record the cycles and droughts that occur every 10 years, and follows . the rainy season. “The drought years are more difficult years.”
“We’re just preparing because we can see what’s going to happen from what we’ve seen in past years,” he said. “It will provide, and it will warn you a year in advance.”
Elsewhere in Houston, people mostly avoided being outside after noon or did their best to make it when they had to leave home.
One who was out was Mark Morales, 42, an engineering technician who was walking his 19-year-old schnauzer named Moose through the Heights in Houston on Sunday afternoon.
Mr. Morales moved the morning walk up from 7 a.m. to 6 a.m. And the walks became shorter.
“Instead of long walks, it’s just constant little walks of 15 to 20 minutes with lots of stops,” Mr. Morales said.
But a dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do, so there they were on Sunday, the streets nearly empty, the heat nearly 100 degrees, another summer day in Houston.