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Arizona, southern California under excessive heat warnings as thunderstorms hit East Coast

Young women form a heart with their hands as they are silhouetted against a dramatic sunrise appearing as a giant ball over the beach in Isle of Palms, S.C., on Sunday. Like much of the country, the Charleston low country is experiencing extremely hot, humid weather. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI
1 of 3 | Young women form a heart with their hands as they are silhouetted against a dramatic sunrise appearing as a giant ball over the beach in Isle of Palms, S.C., on Sunday. Like much of the country, the Charleston low country is experiencing extremely hot, humid weather. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo

July 9 (UPI) -- Much of Arizona and southern California are under excessive heat warnings through Thursday as thunderstorms with high winds and hail hit the East Coast.

Millions are under excessive heat warnings in Arizona for areas around Phoenix and in cities from Kingman down to Yuma, according to alerts from the National Weather Service.

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Temperatures are expected to reach as high as 115 degrees and officials have warned residents to drink plenty of fluids and remain out of the sun.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has also issued an air quality alert for high levels of ozone pollution for Maricopa County, including parts of the Phoenix metropolitan area, through Sunday.

Meanwhile, a red flag warning, which indicates a high risk for wildfires caused by warm weather, is also in effect for the area around Lake Mead near Las Vegas and for the Arizona side of the Colorado River.

"Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly. Outdoor burning is not recommended," the National Weather Service said.

In California, excessive heat warnings for cities from El Centro near the border in Imperial County, past Palm Springs and up to Twentynine Palms in San Bernardino County. Other cities under excessive heat watches include Chino and Riverside near Los Angeles.

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A fire that burned 39 acres in California's Riverside County, known as the Lincoln Fire, reached 100% containment on Friday -- narrowly missing the excessive heat warning that could have exacerbated firefighting efforts.

Excessive heat watches are also in effect for southern New Mexico, west and central Texas and parts of Florida.

In North Carolina on Sunday, severe thunderstorm warnings were issued for Rockingham, Davidson and Guilford with wind gusts up to 60 mph and hail that could damage roofs and siding. No damage has yet been reported.

Forecasters have issued a tornado warning for Alamance County and Guilford County in North Carolina until 12:30 p.m. EST.

"TAKE COVER NOW! Move to a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If you are outdoors, in a mobile home, or in a vehicle, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris," the NWS said in a statement.

Last week, hurricane researchers said they are now predicting an "above-average" season with at least four major hurricanes and 18 named storms after record-warm sea surface temperatures were recorded following previous predictions.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in May predicted that the 2023 hurricane season had only a 30% chance of being an "above-normal" season.

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Meanwhile, in the Pacific, the World Meteorological Organization on Tuesday declared that El Niño conditions have developed for the first time in seven years and could lead to a surge in global temperatures and disruptive weather and climate patterns in the second half of 2023.

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