Arizona heatwave: Strange consequences of extreme heat

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Man drinking water in ArizonaImage source, Getty Images

Summer has only just begun but a record-breaking heatwave in the southwest corner of the US has sparked wildfires and triggered power outages.

There were 15 large blazes burning in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Utah on Wednesday.

And intermittent blackouts were reported in a number of southwest cities and towns as the spike in demand for electricity to run air-conditioning units overloads power systems.

But what are the more unlikely ways the blistering conditions are affecting the region?

Driving with oven gloves

Medics warn that touching normally innocuous items like steering wheels and doorknobs may leave second- and third-degree burns.

So motorists have been spotted driving with oven mittens in the triple-digit temperatures.

And some businesses have been covering their door handles with materials that alleviate the heat.

As well as burns, public health and emergency room personnel are prepared for extra cases of heat-related illnesses, including cramps, exhaustion and heat stroke.

Buckled roads

Motorways are buckling, with giant cracks forming across four lanes of Highway 50 near the Californian city of West Sacramento on Sunday.

The pavement has since been repaired and the road re-opened but the scorching heat is suspected to be behind the damage, according to ABC local affiliate KGO-TV.

Melting mail

Residents further south in Arizona are sharing on social media how the climbing temperatures are affecting goods and other items.

Some candles melted in a car in Tucson and a vinyl record warped in a mailbox in Phoenix.

Image source, Twitter

Closed zoos

Wildlife attractions like Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona, are closing early so staff can "focus on animal care", a zoo spokeswoman said.

And at Phoenix Zoo, shade structures, cooling slabs, pools and "bloodsicles" - the animal kingdom's version of a Popsicle - have been introduced, said communications director Linda Hardwick.

Image source, Twitter

Swimming scorpions

Desert-dweller scorpions are also attempting to avoid baking in the sun by quenching their thirsts in backyard swimming pools south of Phoenix.

"He had his tail up and was just swimming around," Jen Lawson, a mother-of-two, tells Maricopa-based CBS affiliate KPHO-TV of the second scorpion she has found in her pool.

Image source, Twitter

"Bark scorpions (unlike our other species) will drink freestanding water and could well be attracted to increased moisture levels around pools," University of Arizona entomologist Dr Dawn Gouge tells BBC News.

"During June we have extreme heat and no rain, even irrigation water dries up quickly so freestanding water is in short supply."

Quiet hiking trails

Some tourist hot spots are experiencing low visitor turnout, with Fox affiliate KSAZ-TV saying popular mountain hiking trails near Phoenix are unseasonably quiet.

Image source, Twitter

But some tourists are following the sun, making the trek to California's Death Valley for an opportunity to snap a photo of themselves and a temperature gauge reading 130F (54C).

Planes grounded

With the mercury reaching 119F (48C) in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday, almost 50 flights to and from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport were cancelled because the weather was hotter than the operating temperatures of some of the smaller aircraft.

Free ice cream

Residents of southwest communities are trying to beat the sweltering heat, with a diner in Tucson, Arizona, offering free ice cream whenever the mercury exceeds 105F (40.5C).

And, of course, eggs cooking outside

"I have personally seen eggs cook on the sidewalk or cookies on a pan sitting on the dash of a car. Things like that," Jennifer Naples of Scottsdale, Arizona, tells BBC News. "This heat is unreal."

Image source, Twitter

More on the heat

Media caption,

BBC colleagues from hot countries give their tips for staying cool