The Southwestern United States has been sweltering in oppressive heat for the past week, with Las Vegas authorities reporting on Monday one death due to temperatures topping out at a record-tying 117 degrees and more than 40 people treated at area hospitals.
In the communities along the Colorado River about 90 miles south of Las Vegas, temperatures have been even higher. The National Weather Service (NWS) reported a high of 120 degrees on Saturday and 123 degrees Sunday in the sister cities of Bullhead City, Ariz., and Laughlin, Nev, positioned on opposite sides of the River just south of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It was still 108 at midnight, and the low of 91 finally arrived at 5 a.m., but it was back up over 100 degrees by 10 a.m. Monday.
About 30 miles south, in Needles, Calif., highs were reported at 122 degrees and Lake Havasu City, Ariz, posted a high of 120 degrees on Sunday. Emergency service providers have responded to numerous calls for heat-related problems, but none have been life-threatening, according to regional fire and police department spokesmen. Highs have been over 115 degrees for the past six days, according to NWS data, just finishing up three days in a row of record high temperatures.
“I’ve lived here almost 10 years and I don’t remember it being this hot for this long before,” said Bullhead City resident Bobby Kyle. “You can’t go outside for long, and the cold water comes out of the tap warm enough to make instant coffee without using the microwave.”
Staying inside in the air conditioning is a prudent move, Kyle reported. ”We live in the desert, we’re used to the heat, but it’s still a little bit scary sometimes. I worry about letting my pets outside,” he said. “It’s not unusual to see people with air-conditioned dog houses around here,”
Wednesday highs are forecast to reach 118 all along the Colorado River, with slightly cooler temperatures Independence Day of between 114 degrees or over. NWS forecasts call for highs of 113 and above for at least the next five days throughout the Mojave Desert.
In a “Hazardous Weather” bulletin issued by NWS for Northwestern Arizona, Las Vegas Valley and southeastern California, NSW warns, “The excessive heat warning remains in effect through Independence Day as the prolonged heat wave persists.”
In these communities where water-based recreation and casino gaming fuels the tourist-driven economies, hot weather is not necessarily bad for tourism. Casinos are notoriously cool and comfortable, and cooling off in the Colorado River is another option for dealing with the heat, with water temperatures in the 60s year-round in the Bullhead City-Laughlin area. The water is so cold because Davis Dam funnels it from the bottom of Lake Mohave, some 200 feet below the surface. Farther south in Lake Havasu, and 70 miles north, in Lake Mead – near Las Vegas – water temperatures can reach the mid-80s in summer.
“Thousands of people come here for the Fourth of July every year, to hang out on the river and lakes or in Laughlin’s casinos,” Kyle said. ”They do a big fireworks show over the Colorado River that’s always really cool.” This year’s 23rd Annual Rockets Over The River celebration, sponsored by the Laughlin Chamber of Commerce and Laughlin Visitor Bureau, offers free shows on Thursday, July 4, and Saturday, July 6.
Fireworks shows are also set for Las Vegas – known worldwide for its expensive pyrotechnics extravaganzas - and Lake Havasu City on Independence Day.