‘It’s brutal’: Las Vegas cooks amid blazing heatwave – and it will get worse | Las Vegas
At midnight Wednesday, two days after the onset of a scorching heat wave that hit the western United States, the air in Las Vegas had barely cooled.
Throughout the day and for the days that followed, temperatures in the desert city approached historic highs, peaking at 116 degrees Fahrenheit (46.6 Celsius) and setting a new record high. for such dangerously hot weather so early in the year. Meanwhile, dust and smoke from nearby wildfires wafted through the hot, stiff air, casting a brown haze over the valley.
Crowds of tourists still strolled along the scorching sidewalks of the Vegas Strip and many others lined the mazes of slots, restaurants, and shops inside the air-conditioned casinos. But not everyone can escape inside.
“I’m dying – I feel like I’m going to pass out,” said Violet, a woman in a denim thong and cropped top.
Violet makes her life outside on the Strip, posing for photos with passers-by. She was shining, both from the body glitter covering her arms and chest and from the drops of sweat collecting on her face in the midday sun. She has a heart problem, she said as she leaned against a planter where she and several other women had stored water bottles to empty between selfies. “I’m here because I have to pay rent, but it’s so hot and I get dehydrated so quickly. “
Researchers predict this week’s heatwave to be the first of many to hit the southwestern United States before summer is over. Driven by the climate crisis and intensified by the city’s expansive growth, Vegas is already cooking – and it’s going to get worse.
The population of Las Vegas is booming and the city extends into the surrounding desert. The extra concrete adds to the sizzle. In hot weather, highways and roads are littered with broken-down automobiles – commuter cars, ambulances, delivery trucks and buses overheating as they make their way to and from the city center.
“Nevada’s climate is changing,” reports the Nevada government’s Climate Initiative website. “In fact,” say the Nevadans, “they’re already noticing and being affected by these changes. Climate change has arrived at home.
The changes are especially pronounced in Sin City and the surrounding area, which is heating up faster than almost anywhere else in the United States. Heat waves are not only getting hotter, they are also more and more frequent. Summer encroaches more and more on spring, with less and less room for relief.
The increasing intensity has not gone unnoticed among workers who must brave dangerous conditions, but “no one in the valley is allowed to speak,” said Jeff, a valet and porter. He refused to give his last name for fear of reprisals from his employer, a hotel on the Strip.
“The ins and outs are what draws you in,” he added, explaining that his duties require him to constantly switch between extreme heat and freezing air conditioning.
“You get in these cars that have stayed outside and it’s like 140F. Then the sweat flows freely, ”he said. “I’ve seen guys pass out and start shaking. It’s brutal.
But his job provides him with health and life insurance, so he plans to hang in there.
Rafael Martinez, who works as a security guard, said he remains outside throughout his eight-hour shift. He saw several people pass out in the street. “People pass out all the time,” he said. “I sweat and feel the heat, but I’m not the type to complain. He drinks water a lot, which he says helps a bit. He always makes sure to stay in the shade. “If you stand in the sun, you will dry out. “
The heat is one of the deadliest weather disasters, according to federal government data, and in southern Nevada, coroner’s data shows heat-related deaths are on the rise. Authorities have stressed the importance of not leaving people or animals in cars and have started enforcing a new animal cruelty ordinance that clamps down on owners who leave pets outside for more than 10 hours a day during the day. of a heat advisory, which generally applies when temperatures reach 105F.
But for workers who find themselves outside, low-income residents without access to home cooling, and the more than 6,000 homeless residents in Las Vegas, the stifling conditions can take a considerable toll.
“There will definitely be an impact on people who cannot calm down,” said Kristina Dahl, senior climate scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit advocacy organization. While heat stress and heat stroke alone can be fatal, researchers also found that people exposed to high temperatures had higher rates of chronic kidney disease. Hot weather also worsens air quality problems, trapping harmful pollutants during peaks in air conditioning energy consumption increase emissions. Studies show that heat affects the brain, slowing cognitive functions.
Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, provides cooling centers when the heat rises, but many of them close at night even when nighttime temperatures do not drop. This problem is attributed to the cityscape itself.
“We are seeing a more pronounced and defined increase in the frequency of extreme heat in urban areas,” said Dahl. “This is due to a combination of the global warming that we are all experiencing, but in urban areas, but it is amplified by the use of man-made materials,” she added. And, it’s not just the cooking of the locals. “As cities become more developed and there is less natural land cover, it’s going to amplify the warming signal we’re seeing around the world,” she said.
Far from the glitz and glamor of the Strip, the new homes seem to scroll, row by row, in the desert. Even with increasingly intense conditions, the population is increasing. The number of inhabitants increased by more than 64% between 2000 and 2018 in the department. Officials expect the numbers to continue growing, predicting that over the next 40 years, nearly 3.2 million people will settle in the region, an increase of almost 40%.
Expecting to run out of space, a new county land bill asked the federal government for more acreage, pulling about 30,000 acres of public land from the surrounding wilderness.
Meanwhile, construction continues. Housing projects in various stages of completion are on display on the outskirts of the city, and even on the hottest days, workers brave the elements to complete them.
“It’s tough and hot, but if we don’t work we don’t make money,” said Ignacio Regrelar, who ends up dry on a development during the 116 degree day. He and his team work for 8 hours through the extreme heat. “The problem is, if the boss says he’s ready and you don’t, he’ll take other people,” he said. “Workers need work. But it is difficult”.
Residential expansion has also enveloped areas that were once rural. Las Vegas Livestock, a family business that has spent six generations raising pigs in the area, was kicked out of the city in 2018.
The farm uses food waste from Las Vegas casinos to feed thousands of pigs and now they are based deeper in the desert, sharing land donated by the local landfill. “Our family has been in Vegas for 50 years, but the city has grown around them, so now we’re here,” said Sarah Staloard, farm manager. “I hope the houses don’t go that far, but you never know.”
Pigs can handle the heat if they are sprayed with water regularly, “but I think the question is whether we’re going to have people here safely if it is hotter,” she said. . She worries about rising temperatures and the valley she calls home, especially after spending the day working at triple digits. There is no energy on the farm.
“If it continues to be very hot at night, that would be a concern,” she said. “Someone would have to be there to make sure the pigs don’t get too hot. There would be no relief for anyone, ”she added. “Even the equipment never has a break.”