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Dangerous Heat In Phoenix Hits Homeless Hardest

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So today is the first day of summer. But in the West, people have already been sweating a lot, and I mean a lot. If you're along the coast in California, it's not too bad. But it's really bad elsewhere. It's especially bad in the Southwest.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The high in Phoenix yesterday, 119 degrees Fahrenheit, a record temperature that came with excessive heat warnings.

PAUL INIGUEZ: Even 119 has only happened one time, and 118 has only happened a handful of times. So these temperatures this hot are rare, even for our standard.

GREENE: That is Paul Iniguez. He works for the National Weather Service in Phoenix. He says it is almost impossible to describe what heat like that feels like. There is that old cliche about frying eggs on the sidewalk.

INIGUEZ: It's not unheard of for the asphalt, the road, you know, to get 140 to 160 degrees. That's hot enough that if you trip and fall or something happens and you find yourself on that road, that can cause burns instantly just from touching that.

INSKEEP: The main recommendation from authorities is simply to stay inside, which means that homeless shelters have their work cut out for them. One thing you might not expect is that they are handing out blankets.

DAVID SMITH: Obviously, it's way too hot for a blanket. But for individuals who are sleeping on the streets, they put it down to prevent themselves from burning, to insulate themselves from the asphalt.

GREENE: That's David Smith of Central Arizona Shelter Services. He says tips for when the temperature flirts with 120 degrees involve common sense - wear loose clothing, drink a lot of water. But there are also some special challenges.

SMITH: Yesterday, in the afternoon, I walked out, and there was a slight breeze, which sounds as though it would feel nice. But when the temperature is that high, it's drying to your eyes. You can feel the heat on your eyes.

INSKEEP: Ow. Arizona's going to have to endure a few more days of this kind of eye-drying heat. After the weekend, though, forecasters expect temperatures to return to more typical ones for an Arizona summer, a mere 107 degrees or so.

GREENE: Ay, that's normal?

(SOUNDBITE OF SNOOP DOGG'S "DROP IT LIKE IT'S HOT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.