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Record highs toppled amid intense western heat wave

By
Renee Duff, Accuweather.com

A heat wave is smashing record highs and making it feel more like the middle of summer across the West this week. But for those looking to catch a break from high cooling costs and enjoy the outdoors more comfortably -- is there any relief in sight? AccuWeather meteorologists say yes, depending on where you live.

The heat began to build during the long Memorial Day holiday weekend as an area of high pressure expanded northward across the region.

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The heat peaked in Redding, Calif., about 160 miles north of Sacramento, on the holiday itself with a reported high of 109 degrees Fahrenheit. This shattered Monday's record of 103 set in 2016, and also set a new all-time high for the month of May, breaking the previous record of 108 set on May 28, 1984. The average high to close out May in the city is 86.

Sacramento saw the temperature rise to 98 on Sunday and a sizzling 105 on Monday. The latter broke the daily record of 103 from 2001 and tied the city's all-time high for the month.

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"It's hot out there!" the National Weather Service office in Sacramento tweeted on Memorial Day. "Drink plenty of water, limit outdoor activities & don't forget your pets!"

AccuWeather meteorologists say these precautions will be important for residents of Northern and Central California as well as surrounding states to follow for much of the remainder of the week.

Temperatures are forecast to remain in the triple digits and challenge daily records each day into Saturday in Redding. Sacramento is expected to remain in the 90s heading into the weekend.

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Farther south and east, highs in the 100s are forecast each day this week in Las Vegas, which may not sound all too uncommon for the city during the first part of June. By Wednesday and Thursday, however, the city could be nearing record territory with temperatures in the middle to upper 100s.

Sin City is among several areas where heat advisories and excessive heat warnings are in effect.

"Extreme heat will significantly increase the potential for heat-related illnesses, particularly for those working or participating in outdoor activities," the NWS office in Las Vegas noted in their warning.

Excessive heat warnings (purple) are in effect throughout California as well as parts of Nevada and Arizona. Heat advisories (orange) are in effect across parts of Northern California as well as the Pacific Northwest.
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AccuWeather senior meteorologist Heather Zehr echoed these thoughts by stating that this heat wave, with it being the first extended stretch of intense heat so far this year, should be "taken seriously."

Even residents and visitors farther north, in the less traditional hot spots, will need to exercise caution.

Salt Lake City is expected to have record-challenging highs in the middle to upper 90s Thursday and Friday -- days when upper 70s are more typical.

The hottest time of the week will be Tuesday in Portland, Ore., Wednesday and Thursday for Spokane, Wash., and Wednesday through Friday in Boise, Idaho.

"In addition to increased cooling demands, the record-challenging temperatures, low humidity levels and persistent drought conditions across the West can lead to an increased risk for wildfire start and spread," AccuWeather meteorologist Mary Gilbert said. This danger will be present even in the absence of widespread gusty wind events this week, due to the extremely dry nature of the ground.

Most of the Southwest remains in the grips of an extreme to exceptional drought, so any fuels such as grass or brush are very dry. While drought conditions are not as dire, relatively speaking, across the Northwest, abnormally dry weather has also taken its toll in this part of the country as well.

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So when will a break from the heat arrive, and is any needed rain on the way?

AccuWeather's expert team of long-range meteorologists says the Northwestern states will be the most likely area for cooler air and perhaps some rain to sweep in beginning this weekend and continuing into early next week.

Temperatures can dip to 6-12 degrees below normal with this push of cooler air, according to AccuWeather lead long-range meteorologist Paul Pastelok.

As the Northwest catches a break from the heat, however, forecasters are concerned about a heightened fire danger farther south.

"The storm that is expected to bring a shot of much cooler air across the Northwest will likely bring along episodes of gusty winds across the Southwest," Pastelok said.

"Given the drought conditions in place and lack of any rainfall in the forecast, the threat for wildfires will likely become elevated as early as this Sunday, and could last through early next week," Pastelok added.

In terms of temperatures, above-average heat is likely to hang on through the weekend across the Southwest, but conditions may take a turn to more seasonable levels next week.

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A commercial airplane moves across the Manhattan midtown skyline to land at LaGuardia Airport at sunset in New York City on September 2, 2021. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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