No, not all of us in Phoenix are exploding from our headline-making heatwave.
For the past several weeks, newspapers, Internet sources, social media sites, and TV news reports have been sounding the alarm that the Valley of The Sun is melting into the desert sand. If you believe the stories, five million of us are huddled in our homes with cool sheets draped over the windows and the oven unplugged until fall.
With 26 days of temperatures above 110 so far (and six in a row of 115+), I will certainly admit this has been a hotter-than-average summer. But not to the point where most of us are either unprepared or heading for the cooler hills of Minnesota or Juneau.
After 37 years here, I can assure you that until the thermometer passes 105, most of us semi-natives just go about our business. We run errands earlier in the day, avoid outdoor chores to the extent possible, and don't spend much time on the back patio. But, amazingly, it really is a dry heat and not a super-human feat to endure.
Twice a year, we have a qualified service technician check the AC unit from top to bottom and fix anything that looks suspect. Many of us have a plan if either the air conditioning unit fails or there is a power outage in our area.
Getting into an air-conditioned car, driving to a relative's house that has power, going to the movies, or as a last resort, checking into a functioning hotel are all part of our backup plan.
It is no joke that an unairconditioned home or apartment can put someone in a serious situation quite quickly. Over 400 folks died in the Phoenix area last year due to heat-related issues, and that was not a particularly blistering summer.
Half of those deaths took homeless folks. While there are many cooling centers and shelters run by local governments, not everyone living on the streets can make it to one of these life-saving places. A few weeks ago, the city of Phoenix started using city buses as emergency cooling locations.
Dying while homeless is a horrible fate, and it happens in all parts of the country during any season. The best estimates are that close to 8,000 of our fellow citizens die each year while unhoused.
So, nothing I am writing here is meant to diminish the real risks of excessive heat to both the homeless and anyone who finds it impossible to afford the life-saving effect of A/C. With climate change a reality, whether this is the "new normal," no one knows. In another decade, maybe we will look back at the Phoenix summer of 2023 as the last "cool" one.
Add in the Southwest's decade-long drought, and this part of the country will be the testing ground for what our future may hold. Either there will be technology and changes in behavior that make living in this climate doable. Or, cities like Phoenix will see their glory days behind them as the population heads somewhere else.
For now, know that for most of us, things are not nearly as dire as the press wants you to believe. I would suggest now is not the best time to visit, but those of us acclimated to this climate are doing just fine, although an early fall would be nice.