After one of the wettest winters on record in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and heavy rainfall across Nevada throughout the spring, the state experienced a relatively mild early summer with June temperatures averaging 80 degrees in Reno and 95 degrees in Las Vegas. Vegas.
Temperatures in southern Nevada reached triple digits twice last month compared to most days in June 2022 reaching over 100 degrees.
However, health organizations and local governments are preparing to put an end to the mild temperatures as a heat wave is expected to wash over Nevada. Temperatures in Las Vegas are expected to reach a record-breaking 117 degrees this weekend while temperatures in Reno are expected to reach 105 degrees, according to AccuWeather.
Excessive heat warnings are expected to last through Tuesday, then drop to typical summer temperatures for each region.
The National Weather Service issues a High Temperature Warning when temperatures are expected to reach 105 degrees and nighttime temperatures have not fallen below 75 degrees for more than two days.
Despite this sudden warming, Reno city spokesman Landon Miller said he believes residents are prepared.
“I think anybody who cares about the news or whoever knows it’s going to be hot, whether it’s traditional forms of media or even social media,” said Miller. “There is always a protocol that is in place to make sure we get the message across.”
These preparations include letting people know how to keep cool during the hottest parts of the day. Although people are advised to stay cool from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. until the heat wave subsides, not all Nevadans have equal access to air conditioning, which is a life-saving tool during these sweltering times.
Although apartment complexes are required by law to maintain air conditioning units provided to tenants, homeowners have no such protection.
There are many older homes in northern Nevada that do not have air conditioning – although some do have swamp coolers.
According to a 2020 report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 92 percent of Nevada homes have AC equipment.
However, even homes with AC units can experience leaks, mineral deposit build-up, freezing, or a myriad of other problems that can take hours to days to resolve and cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Fixed-income or low-income people who encounter a broken air conditioning unit or live in a home with no refrigeration could be in a dangerous situation this weekend. The Southern Nevada Health District recommends that people check in with elderly and disabled people they know during this extremely hot time.
Any time when extreme temperatures and weather are also very dangerous for those who experience homelessness and may not have a cool and stable shelter.
According to a 2019 Desert Research Institute study, heat-related deaths are increasing and will continue to increase as Nevada’s urban areas continue to grow, particularly among people over 55 who are moving to Southern Nevada for retirement.
The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) reported 152 heat-related deaths through 2022 and seven heat-related deaths so far this year. The extent of the problem in northern Nevada is less clear — “Heat-related deaths are not reported under[Nevada’s amended laws]so it’s not something we keep track of,” said Scott Oksarart, a spokesperson for the Washoe County Health District.
“SNHD began publishing monthly reports of heat-related deaths and emergency department visits in July 2023,” said SNHD spokesperson Dave Sheehan. “This was in response to a growing number of inquiries related to this topic as well as SNHD’s desire to raise awareness of heat-related illnesses and deaths. SNHD conducts surveillance for extreme heat from April through October.”
Excessive heat affects not only those in the home, but thousands of outdoor workers in Nevada as well. Although the 2023 legislative session brought SB427 — a bill that would have put in place legal protections for workers at risk of heat illness — it failed before he died conditionally.
Although high temperatures can pose many health risks, there are things people who don’t have access to air conditioning at work and at home can do this weekend to keep cool.
Public places to cool
Northern Nevada has many public pools including those in Idlewild Park and Sun Valley. If a resident would rather not spend the money to access them, there are also state parks in the Northern Valleys and Spanish Springs. The City of Reno also announced on its hot page that people can take advantage of public spaces such as libraries or art galleries that have air conditioning. The Carys campus — a county-run homeless shelter in northern Nevada — also has air conditioning, although its space is limited.
In southern Nevada, there are also many public pools, water parks, and spray parks, which range in entry costs. Help Hope Home, an organization that advocates for the rights of the homeless in southern Nevada, has also advertised numerous cooling stations from rural Searchlight to metropolitan Las Vegas, most of them from public libraries.
There are also a number of pet friendly cooling stations.
How do you cool your house?
Some homeowners may not be able to leave their homes if they have pets, children, or are disabled. If someone is staying at home without a cooling mechanism, there are small things that can be done to mitigate the effects of high temperatures.
People can open their windows in the early morning and evening to cool their homes, and make sure to close the vents and close the curtains during the heat of the day to trap the cool air.
People can also remove rugs from their floors, avoid cooking and dampen curtains to cool the house. It’s also wise to identify the coolest room in the house and to seal off all the others to avoid the cold air from the night before it gets lost in other areas of the house.
Avoid health effects
During times of extreme heat, it is important to stay hydrated. SNHD recommends that residents freeze water and drink it throughout the day even when they are not thirsty. It is also recommended to wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing as well as sunscreen and a hat if one must be out in the sun.
It is also important to avoid any strenuous activities during the heat of the day. Intermountain Hospital in Las Vegas also emphasized avoiding concrete and artificial turf during a heat wave, as these materials typically retain the most heat even after the hottest times of the day. Pets and children should also be kept from walking barefoot on these materials to avoid injury.
The SNHD also says it’s important to recognize signs of serious health effects from being too hot.
If a person participates in strenuous activity outdoors in the heat, they may develop a sunburn or heat rash. If a person is feeling extremely hot and dehydrated, they may experience heat exhaustion, which is characterized by “extreme sweating, pale skin, muscle cramps, fatigue and weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting, fainting, rapid and weak pulse, and rapid and shallow breathing.”
If a person is experiencing heat exhaustion, they should seek medical attention immediately so that heat exhaustion does not turn into heatstroke.
Heatstroke occurs when a person’s body temperature rises too quickly for the body to sweat and cool off.
A person may get heatstroke if their body temperature is over 103 degrees, their skin is red and hot but not sweating, they have a racing pulse, a strong headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, or loss of consciousness.
In the event of heatstroke, a person should seek emergency medical treatment to reduce the risk of disability or death. It is important to reduce the victim’s body temperature to 101-102 degrees in a shaded area using a cool, wet body wrap, a shallow basin of water, or a cool shower if the person is still conscious. SNHD confirmed that fluids should not be given to someone suffering from heatstroke.
A person suffering from heatstroke may shiver uncontrollably or lose consciousness, so it is important not to have any liquids or objects in their mouth as it could lead to choking or fluid entering their lungs. Often they will need intravenous fluids once in the hospital to rehydrate.
Miller also stressed the danger of heatstroke.
“If you’re suffering from heatstroke, the biggest sign you’re not sweating is,” Miller said. “So you’ll get dizzy, you’ll get nauseous, but you won’t sweat. If you experience this, call 9-1-1 right away.”