A string of triple-digit temperatures — and no relief from monsoons for a short spell — poses a risk to El Paso’s most vulnerable this week.
The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for much of Southern New Mexico and Far West Texas through the end of Tuesday, warning people to be cautious if outside, stay in shade and drink plenty of water.
Tuesday is forecast to be the warmest day of the week at 102 to 105 degrees, said Tom Bird, a meteorologist at National Weather Service El Paso.
Temperatures above human’s average core temperatures, about 98.6 degrees, can mean trouble for cooling through sweating. This presents the greatest threat of heat illness to older people, people with disabilities, children and infants — but anyone can be injured by the heat.
“We’ve had this interruption in the monsoon because the high pressure settled directly over New Mexico,” Bird said. “The flow has pushed the moisture out of our area and into Arizona.”
Bird said to expect “really hot temperatures” through Wednesday, but held out hope for a return of monsoons, and with them a bit of relief from the extreme heat.
The Extreme Weather Task Force, made up of community and government agencies, provides free fans to people in need. City spokesperson Laura Cruz-Acosta said fans were still available Monday. Call 211, the statewide social services hotline, for more details.
Heat waves are the deadliest U.S. natural disasters, causing more deaths in the long term than hurricanes or tornadoes.
Human-caused climate change is making heatwaves more likely and more extreme, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Temperatures in the contiguous U.S. are rising, and the Southwest is one of the fastest-warming places — with concerns that deaths caused or compounded by heat are also rising.
The El Paso County Medical Examiner’s Office could not immediately provide the number of heat-related deaths over the past five years, including this summer.
The Paso Times reported that five migrants died of dehydration or heat stroke between October 2021 and and this June.
Wearing loose-fitting, light clothes; covering windows with curtains, sheets or foil-covered cardboard to reflect heat; staying inside or in the shade; creating a cross breeze with fans; avoiding exertion and taking rests between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.; and drinking lots of water are tips the National Weather Services recommends to stay safe during extreme heat.
Clarification: The city of El Paso did not activate cooling centers this past week, said Enrique Dueñas-Aguilar a spokesperson for the El Paso Fire Department, since the heat wave was no longer forecasted to last until Sunday.
“The threshold of consecutive days with extreme temperatures was not met for this heat wave,” Dueñas-Aguilar wrote in an email saying the temperature must be at least 105 for a week or more. “Therefore the (recreation) centers are operating under regular business hours, and people are welcome to visit and cool down during these hours.”
Regular hours of operation vary between centers, but can be found on the city’s website. All centers close by 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and close at 2 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Sundays are closed.