Hospitals in Phoenix are overwhelmed with patients suffering from heat stroke and burns caused by scorching asphalt. Homeless shelters are struggling to keep their air-conditioners running. The medical examiner’s office is even using trailer-sized coolers to store bodies, a practice not seen since the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The heat is relentless in Phoenix, with the city experiencing temperatures of at least 110 degrees for 31 consecutive days. This not only broke a previous 18-day record set in 1974 but also set a new significant record. Last week, Phoenix shattered another record with the highest number of 115-degree days ever recorded in a calendar year. This is part of a global heat wave that made July the hottest month on record.
This scorching July has taken a toll on the health and patience of the city’s 1.6 million residents. It has also added immense strain to efforts to protect homeless individuals and older residents who are most vulnerable to extreme heat.
Rae Hicks, a 45-year-old resident, expressed her frustration with the ongoing heat as she sat with her 7-year-old son in a clammy cooling center in Tempe. With temperatures reaching 118 degrees outside, Hicks and other homeless individuals have nowhere to go after the center closes. They spend their days bouncing between various locations for relief from the heat and sleeping in motels, cars, or shelters at night.
The situation is becoming unbearable for many residents with two more hot months ahead. People are fatigued and experiencing various heat-related ailments. Circle the City, a medical charity that serves the homeless population, is struggling to treat the increasing number of patients, as even their mobile medical buses are succumbing to the extreme heat.
The medical examiner in Phoenix reported 25 heat-related deaths this year and is investigating an additional 249 deaths potentially linked to heat. Hospitals have seen a surge in patients seeking treatment for heat-related illnesses and burns. Burn victims are being treated with cold saline or packed into ice-filled body bags, sometimes causing nurses to slip on icy puddles.
Dr. Kara Geren from Valleywise Health Medical Center in central Phoenix emphasized the severity of the situation, stating that the emergency department is dealing with everything from heat cramps to heat stroke and death. The hospital is also witnessing more cases of homeless individuals and drug users with heat-related illnesses, as well as people sustaining burns from hot pavement.
The extreme heat has also taken a toll on the environment. Saguaro cactuses are collapsing, plants along highways are turning yellow, and hiking trails have been closed at midday to protect hikers and paramedics.
The media in Phoenix expressed their frustration with the ongoing heatwave, with the Arizona Republic asking if the inferno will ever end.
Austin Davis, who runs a homeless-outreach charity, has been inundated with desperate calls from people seeking help to avoid sleeping out in the heat. Many shelters are full, and waiting lists for publicly funded housing are long. Davis receives calls from families who find his number at cooling centers, shelters, or through word of mouth. He does his best to connect them with housing and shelter programs.
One call came from Melissa Duckett, who had been sleeping in her car with her wife and 11-year-old son since being evicted. Their car broke down during the heatwave, but they found temporary relief in a trailer provided by Davis, equipped with bunk beds and air-conditioning.
In conclusion, Phoenix is enduring an unbearably hot July, causing health issues, straining resources, and leaving many homeless individuals desperate for relief. The city is grappling with the consequences of a global heat wave, and residents are questioning how much more they can endure.