PHOENIX — A record streak of daily temperatures above 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius) in Phoenix ended Monday as the dangerous heat wave that suffocated the Southwest throughout July eased a bit with cooling monsoon rains.
The historic heat began to blast the region in June, stretching from Texas across New Mexico and Arizona and into the California desert. Phoenix and its suburbs swelled more and longer than most, setting several records, including the 31 consecutive days of 110-degree Fahrenheit-plus (43.4 degrees Celsius) weather. The previous record was 18 consecutive days, set in 1974.
The streak was finally broken Monday, when the high peaked at 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42.2 Celsius) at 15.10
“The high temperature for Phoenix today is 108 degrees,” National Weather Service meteorologist Jessica Leffel said at 5 p.m.
“The record streak of 31 straight days of 110+ degree temperatures has ended,” the weather service said on social media. “The high temperature at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport reached 108 degrees this afternoon, which is only 2 degrees above normal.”
The reprieve was expected to be brief, with the forecast calling for highs again above 110 several days later in the week. And National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Hirsch said August could be even hotter than July.
But residents and visitors took what they could get.
“It’s not going to last more than a few days, but I’m enjoying this break,” said Christine Bertaux, 76, who was cooling off Monday at a downtown day center for elderly people who are homeless.
“It’s been REALLY hot here!” said Jeffrey Sharpe of Kenosha, Wis., who was in town for a long weekend that Monday included watching his son’s two poodles frolic in a grassy dog park. “But today it was about 85 degrees, more like Wisconsin.”
Phoenix also sweated through a record 16 straight days in which overnight lows didn’t drop below 90 degrees (32.2 degrees Celsius), making it hard for people to cool down after the sun went down.
In California, Death Valley, long considered the hottest place on Earth, flirted in July with some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded, reaching 125.6 degrees Fahrenheit (52.5 Celsius) on July 16 at the aptly named Furnace Creek.
The planet’s hottest recorded temperature ever was 134 F (56.67 C) in July 1913 at Furnace Creek, according to the World Meteorological Organization, the body was recognized as a world record holder.
And in Nevada, also on July 16, Las Vegas briefly reached 116 degrees (46.6 degrees Celsius) to tie the record for that date set in 1998.
The heat in Phoenix started to cool down a bit last week with the city’s first big storm since the monsoon season began on June 15.
The Southwest heat wave was just one type of extreme weather event that hit the United States in July. Fatal flooding swept away people and cars in Pennsylvania, and days of flooding led to dangerous mudslides in the Northeast.
At several times during the month, as many as a third of Americans were under some form of heat advisory, watch or warning. Although not as visually dramatic as other natural disasters, experts say heat waves are deadlier — heat in parts of the South and Midwest killed more than a dozen people in June.
Rudy Soliz, who runs the center where Bertaux cooled off, said those who visit to get a meal and cool off in the sun “have had a very hard time this summer.”
“Elderly people have a harder time with the heat, there are a lot of diabetics, people taking medication,” he said.
“The heat has been pretty bad this summer. We’ve had at least five 911 calls from here in July for people getting heatstroke,” Soliz said. “They’ve found a couple of bodies around here this month, but it’s not yet clear if they died from the heat.”
Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populous and home to Phoenix, reported 25 heat-related deaths this year per July 21. Another 249 deaths are listed as under investigation, and results from toxicology tests that could take weeks or months after an autopsy could lead to many being confirmed as heat-related.
Maricopa County reported 425 heat-related deaths in all of 2022, with more than half in July.
R. Glenn Williamson, a businessman who was born in Canada but has lived in Phoenix for years, said he really noticed a temperature difference Monday morning when he washed his car in his driveway.
“Now we have to get rid of the moisture!” Williamson said. “But honestly, I’d rather have this heat than a Montreal winter.”