El Paso on Sunday had its 24th straight day of triple-digit temperatures, breaking the city’s all-time record of consecutive days with 100-plus degree heat. 

That record could continue to fall each day for two weeks, National Weather Service forecasters say. The previous record of 23 consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures was set in 1994, El Paso’s hottest summer in 136 years of weather records.

The current forecast from the National Weather Service suggests El Paso over the next week will see daytime highs of at least 104 degrees. If that prediction holds, the city by the end of next week will have had a month of daily intense triple-digit heat – something El Paso has never experienced before. 

From 1900 through 1989, El Paso each year averaged 12 days of triple-digit temperatures annually. But the number of days topping 100 has increased in recent years as global climate change reshaped the region’s weather patterns. Between 1990 and 2019, the Borderland on average experienced 26 days of 100-degree heat. From 2020 to 2022, El Paso averaged 37 days of triple-digit temperatures each year. 

Through July 9 of this year, El Paso has already had 25 days where the temperature topped 100 degrees.

The National Weather Service said El Paso has a high risk of experiencing excessive heat above 100 degrees at least through July 18

However, El Paso could see rain Sunday or Monday that could cool temperatures some. The area has a 30% chance of rain Sunday and Monday night, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  

A city-established cooling center inside the Chalio Acosta Sports Complex sat empty on Thursday afternoon. (Diego Mendoza-Moyers/El Paso Matters)

The city has set up five cooling centers throughout the city – in addition to public libraries – for residents to cool off in an air conditioned building and receive cold water during the day. 

Almost 100 residents have used the cooling centers over the last two weeks, according to city spokesperson Laura Cruz-Acosta. A gymnasium used as a cooling center inside the Chalio Acosta Sports Center near the County Coliseum sat empty at around 2 p.m. Thursday, but an employee there said a small crowd of El Pasoans had rested at the cooling center a day earlier. 

Elsewhere on Thursday, a small group of young children shouted and played in a splash pad under the blistering afternoon sun outside the Chamizal Recreation Center. Nearer Downtown, Joe Wilson was standing under a sliver of shade on the sidewalk on Father Rahm Avenue, piling beef and pasta onto styrofoam plates for a line of hungry people – some were migrants, others were locals. 

Joe Wilson, of Philadelphia, serves a beef and pasta plate for a line of people on Father Rahm Avenue under 100-plus degree heat. Credit: Diego Mendoza-Moyers / El Paso Matters

The group of volunteers were also serving up cold orange Tang for thirsty passersby.

“Anytime you’ve got heat, it gets harder for people,” Wilson said as he served a plate for a young migrant named Mito. “A lot of people are scattered, just trying to stay in a safe place.” 

In addition to cooling centers, the city has received donated fans that are available for free for residents who need one. Cruz-Acosta said El Pasoans can contact the city for a fan by calling the 211 phone number.  

Meanwhile, city workers aren’t required to take breaks during extreme heat like the city saw Thursday. But Cruz-Acosta said “during periods of extreme weather (excessive heat or cold), our field employees are strongly encouraged to take breaks in addition to their regularly scheduled breaks.”

And the city of El Paso has been running a campaign urging residents not to leave pets inside a vehicle at any time. Temperatures inside a car can top 130 degrees after just minutes on a hot day, and rolling down windows has little effect on the temperature inside a car, according to the NWS. 

The record-setting string of triple-digit temperatures in El Paso could make electric bills more costly for El Paso households – although bills likely won’t rise as much as they did during the sweltering heat last summer. 

The hotter it gets outside, the more power an air conditioning unit has to use to cool down the interior of a building. Intense, unrelenting heat drives a bigger demand for electricity, which makes the price of power, as well as monthly bills, more expensive. 

Last year, El Paso households saw their electric and gas bills rise from a combined average of $189 before summer to about $219 last fall.

However, much of the increase in power and gas bills last year was the result of a sharp increase in the price of natural gas, the primary fuel that El Paso Electric and most other utilities buy to burn in their power plants and produce electricity. Last year’s rise in natural gas prices was in part due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as the intense summer heat last year. 

But after the benchmark price for a unit of natural gas topped $9 last summer, natural gas firms started producing more gas to take advantage of higher prices, which has sent the price back down this year. On Wednesday, the U.S. benchmark price for one unit of natural gas was $2.65, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The EIA said it expects natural gas prices to average around $2.60 per unit from July through September. 

“We expect high inventory levels will keep (natural gas) prices well below last year’s prices, which averaged almost $8.00” per unit last summer, the EIA wrote last month.  

On top of that, El Paso Electric announced a credit for customers earlier this summer that’s worth about $11 per month on average. 

The credit is the result of EPE selling excess power to other utilities on the grid. The credit will be deducted from bills for the utility’s Texas customers through September. The combination of the bill credit plus lower prices for natural gas will likely prevent electric bills from rising as much as they did last summer. 

One major difference with this year’s heat has been extraordinarily warm temperatures at night. That requires people to cool their homes and offices for much longer periods of time, adding to the expense.

Over the last three days of June, the overnight low temperature never dipped below 80 degrees. That happened again Thursday through Saturday. Before this summer, El Paso had only seen six streaks of three or four days where temperatures didn’t drop below 80.

The temperature briefly dropped below 80 Sunday morning, ending the latest streak.

Meteorologists use a metric called cooling degree days to help predict the energy demand needed to keep people comfortable.

El Paso’s five highest number of cooling degree days all occurred in 1994. Friday and Saturday tied the record for the highest number of cooling degree days outside of 1994. Friday’s high was 109 and the low 82; Saturday’s high was 108 and the low 83.

It’s not clear when the intense heat blanketing El Paso will ease. 

Average temperatures in May and June were 2 degrees above “normal” – which refers to the average temperatures recorded from 1991 through 2020 – and so far average temperatures this July have been 6 degrees above normal, according to the NWS. A multi-week outlook from NOAA also suggests El Paso will continue to see above-average temperatures through the end of July at least. 

For now, though, Wilson and his fellow volunteers plan to keep braving the searing heat to serve orange Tang from their sidewalk cooler to whoever needs it. 

“A lot of times,” Wilson said, “people will come up to us just asking for something to drink.”

12:15 p.m. Sunday, July 9. This story has been updated with Sunday surpassing 100 degrees.

Diego Mendoza-Moyers is a reporter covering energy and the environment. An El Paso native, he has previously covered business for the San Antonio Express-News and Albany Times Union, and reported for the...