A searing heat wave has enveloped much of the Southwest, sending temperatures in the drought-stricken region to dangerous new highs and sparking grave concerns about wildfire potential.
Roughly 50 million people across the Western U.S. are under some form of heat-related alert from the National Weather Service, which predicted record-setting heat this week just about everywhere west of the Rocky Mountains.
On Tuesday, the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for western Colorado ― the first ever there. Temperatures in the Grand Junction area could hit 110 degrees, easily besting the region’s previous record high of 106 set in 2005.
Las Vegas is looking at temperatures approaching 117 ― or potentially exceeding that number ― Wednesday through Saturday, which would match a record high set in 2017. Nevada’s all-time high of 125, set in 1994, is also in jeopardy, as is Arizona’s 1994 record of 128, the National Weather Service said.
The exceedingly hot, dry weather will exacerbate the exceptional drought conditions much of the West is already under, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir and a critical source of water and power for Arizona, Nevada and Southern California, is at its lowest level in history ― and will likely continue dropping until November, when agricultural outflows cease.
“This landscape screams problems to me,” Pat Mulroy, the former head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, told CBS News in a segment on the Colorado River system.
“We’re at a tipping point,” Mulroy added later. “It’s an existential issue for Arizona, for California, for Nevada. It is just that simple.”