September 25, 2023

The US is facing a wild weekend of weather, including extreme heat and severe storms

Forecasts point to a weekend of wild weather for much of the United States as dangerous heatwaves sweep across the West and South, severe storms sweep across the Central Plains, and states in the Midwest, Northeast, and Mid-Atlantic .

In an update Friday, the National Weather Service said heat is increasing along the West Coast and this weekend is expected to bring hot and dry conditions across much of California. Parts of central and northern California could approach 43 degrees Celsius on Saturday, and temperatures in the Southwest could soar well above that mark, it said.

In addition to increasing the risk of heat-related illness and death, the hot and dry conditions in the West are raising concerns about wildfire outbreaks.

Across the central plains and to the south, which have been baked by high temperatures for days, the heat is expected to continue.

“Third-digit temperatures are expected to reach northernmost locations in Missouri today, while more oppressive humidity will continue farther south closer to the Gulf Coast,” the weather service said Friday.

Texas, which has been sweltering for the past three weeks under an intense heat wave early in the season, is expected to cool slightly from triple-digit temperatures. The torrid conditions are responsible for at least 13 deaths in the state, health officials said.

The deadly heat wave was fueled by a high-pressure dome that stagnated over Texas and Mexico, causing peak heat and humidity during the day and low lighting at night. Mexico’s health ministry said on Thursday that at least 100 people have died in the past two weeks due to this extreme heat, Reuters reported.

Studies have shown that climate change is increasing the frequency, severity and duration of heat waves.

As the ongoing heat dome extends deeper south, high heat and humidity are expected to blanket parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama over the weekend.

In Memphis, officials are still grappling with the aftermath of last weekend’s storms that left more than 120,000 county residents without power.

Charles Newell, deputy administrator of the Shelby County Emergency Management & Homeland Security Agency, said about 8,000 people are still without power, adding that his department’s top priority is making sure residents can stay cool during the heat wave.

The city’s heat index values, which indicate what conditions feel like to the human body when humidity and air temperatures are combined, are expected to be in the triple digits for the next several days.

“We encourage anyone who has no power or air conditioning to go to refrigeration centers,” Newell said. “We have a number of strategically located cooling centers, we do water distribution and we ask people to stay out of the sun as much as possible.”

Severe thunderstorms are predicted for much of the country on Friday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center said occasional hail and damaging winds can develop across the central plains, stretching from the middle Mississippi Valley to the Tennessee Valley.

Storms have already snapped at air traffic this week as Americans head toward the July 4 holiday. Thousands of flights have been disrupted or canceled since Wednesday, which is expected to put even more pressure on a busy travel weekend.

Wildfire smoke obscures views of the Chicago skyline (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Wildfire smoke obscures views of the Chicago skyline (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, parts of the country continue to struggle with poor air quality as smoke from wildfires in Canada continues to drift over states in the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

However, weather service officials said air quality is expected to slowly improve “due to a combination of thunderstorms and smoke spread as we head into the weekend.”

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