A brutal heat wave suffocating the Southwest is grounding planes and turning sun-pelted surfaces hot enough to deliver third-degree burns.
Temperatures could hit 120 F in Phoenix and 124 in Death Valley. There are warnings in place across Nevada and California. Door handles get so hot in Phoenix that some merchants put covers over them so they don’t burn customers’ hands.
If temperatures do reach 120, it will be a 20-year record.
Last year, the county that Phoenix is in had 130 heat-related deaths, the highest number in more than a decade. Around a third of those deaths were homeless people unable to escape the heat.
For those inside, air conditioning is a necessity. That fact has been keeping Alan Schwandt, owner of Alan Air busy.
“Now people are like desperate. They’ll do and pay anything for these units to get them fixed,” said Schwandt as he repaired a rooftop central air conditioner.
The heat has left him running from “Job to job to job.”
“Sometimes you wish the phone would ring for more calls and sometimes you hope the phone doesn’t ring. This is probably the day you don’t want it ringing because there’s more work than you can do,” said Alan Schwandt, Alan’s Air.
Schwandt said he may be called out more than a dozen times a day this week. That also means extra business for crane operator Jayme Martens, who’s rig is essential for lifting AC units on and off of rooftops.
“Last summer, and the summer before, I would average anywhere from 15 to 18 jobs a day,” said Martins.
With the heat wave this week, he’s expecting it to be even busier.
American Airlines had to cancel nearly 40 flights by regional jets in Phoenix on Tuesday because of the heat.
Smaller jets made by Bombardier and flown by its partners can’t operate in over 116.5 F degree weather.
The airline said passengers trying to fly during the peak of the heatwave can reschedule their flights without a fee.