Heat Wave Scorches Western States

Friday, July 6th 2007, 7:20 am
By: News On 6

BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ Californians who have been taking cover from scorching heat could expect a little relief Friday, although triple-digit temperatures were forecast to set records in other parts of the West.

Forecasters predicted a high of 107 in Boise _ six degrees higher than the 101 record for that date set in 1985.

The city reached 104 degrees Thursday afternoon, leading Rick Overton to arrange a trip for his co-workers to float down the Boise River on inner tubes instead of sitting at stuffy desks.

``Once it gets that high _ 105, 107, 109 _ it just feels hot,'' said Overton, a copywriter for the digital marketing firm Wirestone. ``I'm going to keep a tube under my desk for the whole summer and whenever it gets this hot I'm going to escape.''

Temperatures climbed so high Thursday that authorities warned residents of southern Nevada, southeastern California and northwestern Arizona that outdoor activities could be dangerous except during the cooler early morning hours. Phoenix reached 115 degrees; Baker, Calif., reached 125 degrees.

At the Big Boy Restaurant in Baker, which has a 134-foot-tall thermometer outside, there was a run on cold shakes, general manager Enrique Munoz said.

``We had actually had to hire an extra shaker just to make shakes'' in anticipation of a hot summer, he said.

Temperatures were expected to cool a bit Friday, meteorologist Jamie Meier said.

``The high-pressure system that has been stubbornly parked over Southern California is on a weakening trend, allowing temperatures to cool down to seasonable temperatures,'' Meier said.

The rest of the West wasn't as lucky.

Even Stanley, Idaho, which at more than 6,000 feet elevation is routinely the coldest place in the lower 48 states, was seeing record highs, the National Weather Service said. The remote town in the Sawtooth Mountains reached 92 degrees Thursday, and was expected to hit 93 degrees Friday.

Hardly anyone in the tiny town has air conditioning, said Nancy Anderson, Stanley deputy city clerk. ``They're all going to the lakes and the rivers and trying to find the shade,'' she said.

At least 150,000 people were expected to flock to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada and Arizona in hopes of cooling off in the water this weekend, said Roxanne Dey, recreation area spokeswoman.

St. George, Utah, hit 115 degrees by 5 p.m. Thursday, a day after a nearby weather sensor recorded an unofficial reading of 118, which would top the state's all-time record of 117 set in St. George in 1985. Summer temperatures across Utah are running 10 to 15 degrees above normal, meteorologist Brandon Smith said.

``To be honest, as far as temperatures, for as far out as we can see there's no relief,'' he said.

A 1-year-old boy was found dead Wednesday evening in a locked car in temperatures approaching 100 degrees in Orofino, Idaho. He was locked in the car for about five hours when passers-by noticed him, and the boy's stepgrandmother was charged in his death, authorities said Thursday.

Around Las Vegas _ where temperatures reached 116 degrees Thursday afternoon _ transformers overheated and caused electrical pole fires because of all the people switching on their air conditioners, said Scott Allison with the Clark County Fire Department.

In Montana, farmers anxiously watched their crops and thermometers. High temperatures for a handful of days can harm crop yield.

``Prolonged heat is devastating. Four or five days of it is going to be hard,'' said wheat farmer Lynn Nordwick near Poplar, Mont.

In Phoenix, 42-year-old laborer Russ Waldrip wiped sweat from his face as he unloaded large windows from the back of a truck.

``When it gets this hot I pour water over my head all day,'' Waldrip said. ``Sometimes I can't wait to jump in the pool, but I don't even have the energy to do that.''

In Spokane, Wash., the temperature reached 101 degrees, surpassing the record 100 degrees.

Northeastern Oregon residents experienced what was expected to be the hottest day of the year Thursday, with temperatures reaching 108 in Pendleton and 107 in Hermiston.

The heat and a dry spring raised concern among firefighters.

``We're really primed to burn right now,'' said Dennis Winkler, an assistant fire management officer for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. ``We're well above average in terms of fire danger for this time of year.''

The heat wave began last week after a large high-pressure center developed over Arizona, said National Weather Service forecaster Paul Flatt in Boise. A weather pattern was pushing that high-pressure center north into Canada, Flatt said, but most of the West is expected to experience high temperatures into next week.