More than 100 million Americans have been urged to stay indoors amid record heat, with experts warning such temperatures could become the norm amid the climate crisis.
As many as 107.5 million people, more than a third of the US population, had been warned to stay indoors as of Wednesday as a potentially deadly combination of extreme heat and humidity took hold in a much of the country.
The heatwave extended from parts of the Gulf Coast in the south to the Great Lakes in the Midwest, the National Weather Service (NWS) Prediction Center said.
More than 125 million people were also subject to heat alerts, including heat advisories and excessive heat warnings, CNN reported.
“It’s a day when not only people susceptible to heat-related illnesses, but really just about anyone who’s going to be outdoors for an extended period of time is at risk for heat-related illnesses,” St Louis-based NWS meteorologist Matt Beitscher told CNN.
Record temperatures have been recorded across the United States, particularly in the Southwest, prompting cities to try to find ways to cope with potentially deadly heat.
In Las Vegas, Nevada, temperatures hit a high of 109F (43C), tying a record set in 1956. The NWS has warned that temperatures could rise higher.
In Denver, Colorado, temperatures exceeded 100 F (38 C), tying records set in 2013 for the highest temperature and the first day to reach 100 F.
In Phoenix, Arizona, where residents are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the sweltering heat, temperatures have reached 110 F (43 C) for four straight days. During this period, nighttime temperatures never dropped below 80 F (27 C).
Cities in the Midwest also struggled, with government officials rushing to provide cooling options for vulnerable people.
Chicago, where three women died in a heatwave last month, opened cooling centers across much of the city as temperatures hit 100F (38C) on Tuesday.
City officials said the city’s 75 public libraries were available to residents in need of refreshment, amid concerns about the failure to properly protect civilians during dangerous temperatures.
Detroit, Michigan officials said cooling centers for residents were high temperatures, expected to reach 100 F and humidity expected to exacerbate heat-related illnesses.
In Minneapolis, at least 14 schools without air conditioning were forced to conduct classes remotely, as the city braced for temperatures in the 90s.
“We’ve had heat waves before this year, but not as intense as this one or as long,” NWS meteorologist Alex Tardy said during a video briefing.
Warning that the warmer weather will continue through mid-June, Tardy said: “These are significant temperatures and dangerous temperatures for everyone, if you don’t take precautions.”
Scientists have repeatedly warned that recurrent and intense heat waves could become the norm as the climate crisis deepens.
Other symptoms of rising temperatures, including wildfires and extreme flooding, have occurred in recent weeks.
Wildfires, which are expected to increase by a third by 2050, have broken out in southwestern states. More than 2.5 million acres of land have burned this year, more than double last year’s total, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
In Arizona, officials estimated more than 24,000 acres of land had been blackened by wildfires burning in the northern part of the state. Amid a series of fires that broke out on Sunday, about 2,500 homes were evacuated and two structures damaged, said Aaron Graeser, incident commander for the fire.
About 300 people have been evacuated in California as wildfires erupted over the weekend and swept through a mountainous region northeast of Los Angeles, the state’s largest city. Fires throughout the dry region covered more than 990 acres.
Fire officials from city, county and state agencies gathered in Los Angeles on Friday to warn of the growing threat of wildfires amid record temperatures and persistent drought.
In Montana, record rains caused flooding and mudslides forcing Yellowstone National Park, in a rare move, to temporarily close and evacuate more than 10,000 visitors.
The park, which covers parts of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, closed Monday through at least Wednesday as unprecedented flooding and landslides knocked out power and damaged parts of the park.
The most badly affected area of the national park, its northern part, could remain closed for the rest of the summer, officials said.