Record summer heat in the West;
everywhere but New Mexico
—JONATHAN THOMPSON, HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
This summer, the West is as crispy as that chicken you
left on the grill for too long during the Fourth of July. Mercury
topped the 100-degree mark everywhere from Boise to Tucson in late
June and early July. During the first week in July, records fell
in every Western state, except New Mexico.
Although Phoenix is accustomed to sweltering summer temperatures
in the daytime, it was the “coolest” part of the day
that broke the most records: Some nights, the mercury never dipped
below 90 degrees.
Wildfires have flambéed thousands of acres. Flames swept
across a hayfield in northeastern Utah and killed three men as they
worked on a sprinkler; in the central part of the state, a lightning-sparked
blaze scorched more than 300,000 acres in just a few days. The fire
periodically closed I-15, and two motorcyclists were killed when
they crashed in a thick cloud of smoke.
In Idaho, a 35,000-acre fire knocked out electrical transmission
lines and a substation, further straining already loaded lines.
Idaho Power reported record electricity use in the state, as air
conditioners all over the West sucked juice and strained the power
grid. Fire threatened the Kitt Peak National Observatory and a peak
sacred to the Tohono O’odham tribe in southern Arizona, and
a flaming bird, electrocuted by a powerline, ignited a fire near
Nineteen dead border crossers were recovered over a three-week
period in the Arizona desert along the Mexico border. Extreme heat
contributed to their deaths.
Closer to the Canadian border, a dip in the river offered little
respite, at least for fish. In Yellowstone National Park, hundreds
of trout died when the water temperature in the Firehole River climbed
above 80 degrees.
This article originally appeared in High
Country News (www.hcn.org),
which covers the West's communities and natural-resource issues
from Paonia, Colorado.