More than 100 million people are under various heat alerts Thursday in more than two dozen states from parts of the American West to New England, a suffocating cocoon that experts believe will become increasingly common due to the effects of climate change.
The areas at the highest risk for the dangerously hot temperatures span the Southwest, central and south-central US along with the coastal mid-Atlantic region and the Northeast, the weather service noted.
The distressing heat wave has pushed state and local leaders to issue heat emergencies and offer resources to residents to mitigate the high temperatures.
Philadelphia declared a Heat Health Emergency for Thursday due to the expected oppressive heat, activating emergency programs likes special field teams that conduct home visits and outreach for people experiencing homelessness, the department of health said in a news release.
Similarly in New York, residents are encouraged to stay indoors in the upcoming days as the heat continues to sweep across the state to avoid “dangerous conditions that can lead to heat stress and illness,” according to Jackie Bray, the commissioner of the state’s homeland security and emergency services division.
Temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit are expected to remain in New York City, Philadelphia and Boston through the weekend — if not longer.
Meanwhile, triple-digit heat will continue to bake parts of California, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee on Thursday — meaning 1 in 5 Americans will endure dangerous conditions after what has already been a historic week in terms of topping heat records, said CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford.
The heat is expected to persist through the weekend in many places, and more than 85% of the population — or 275 million Americans — could see high temperatures above 90 degrees over the next week. More than 60 million people could see high temperatures at or above 100 degrees over the next seven days.
Triple-digit heat records across multiple states
Triple-digit records were set Tuesday and Wednesday in multiple locations across Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, where Tulsa EMS reported responding to nearly 250 heat-related emergency calls so far this year.
“Those numbers are what we would expect to see in mid- to late-August,” Adam Paluka, spokesperson for the Emergency Medical Services Authority, said Wednesday. “So we’re four to six weeks ahead of where we would normally see those mid-200 call numbers.”
“It’s very concerning,” he added, “especially because the amount of patients that are being transported indicates that some of those calls are heatstroke, which can be deadly.”
In Abilene, Texas, temperatures on Wednesday reached 110 Fahrenheit, breaking a 1936 record on that date. Another record of 104 degrees was set in San Antonio, Texas, surpassing the 101 degrees last experienced in 1996.
And as of Tuesday, the Austin area saw 100 degrees on 38 out of the last 44 days, according to the weather service.
“We’re asking people to conserve power so that the systems continue to operate,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said Wednesday. “We’re asking everybody to do that so that we can get through this together.”
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates about 90% of Texas’ power grid, said it set another record Wednesday for power demand — surpassing a record set a day prior.
Also, Wednesday, a record high of 103 degrees in Fayetteville, Arkansas, topped the 102 degrees seen on that date in 2012.
Another Arkansas city, Mountain Home, saw 107 degrees Wednesday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
Confronting the heat
Meanwhile, some local officials have taken the step to hire chief heat officers to help navigate the response to the extreme heat.
Jane Gilbert, chief heat officer for Miami-Dade County, told CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday that Miami now has nearly double the days with a heat index — what the air feels like — over 90 degrees than it did in the 1970s.
“That is not only concerning to people’s health but their pocketbooks. Our outdoor workers can’t work as long, they lose work time. People can’t afford this AC, the higher electricity cost. It’s both a health and an economic crisis.”
David Hondula, director of the Office of Heat Response and Mitigation for Phoenix, echoed that sentiment, saying, “The heat can affect everyone, we’re all at risk.”
High temperatures are one of the top weather-related causes of death in the US, according to Kimberly McMahon, public weather services program manager with the National Weather Service.
CNN’s Jason Hanna, Christina Maxouris, Mike Saenz, Dave Alsup, Robert Shackelford and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.