PHOENIX (AP) — As the mercury soared, records were falling.
A severe heatwave ushered in the first day of summer Monday in the broiling Southwest, where extreme temperatures were blamed for at least five deaths over the weekend.
Towns along the Arizona-California border were getting the brunt of the extreme temperatures on Monday.
In Palm Springs, the thermometer hit 121 degrees in the early afternoon. The temperature in Phoenix broke a record and hit 116 degrees.
A cool off was expected in the coming days.
The National Weather Service reported 17 daily heat records were broken in Southern California on Sunday — because of a high pressure ridge over the Four Corners region of the Southwest.
“People are assuming that it’s going to be a little bit cooler in the morning, and the temperatures are still extremely hot,” National Weather Service meteorologist Bianca Hernandez said. “If you can avoid being outside in general on days like this, that’s the best thing.”
For many people who work outside, however, air conditioning isn’t an option. Here’s a look at people whose jobs require that they endure the most extreme heat.
There’s little shade along the horse trails in South Mountain Park and Reserve in Phoenix. Ponderosa Stables manager Kim Fitzgerald and her wranglers are well-seasoned when it comes to dealing with extreme heat.
Many of their customers, however, aren’t.
“It’s a dry heat and so people from out of state won’t realize how bad it is because they don’t sweat as much,” Fitzgerald said.
When the temperature breaks 100 degrees, the horse rides come to a stop before noon. The animals get the afternoon off in the corral and they’re given plenty of water.
GETTING WATER FOR ELEPHANTS
Cassie Rogge Dodds at Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona, spends most of her days outdoors tending to a herd of six elephants. She says many of them are from South Africa and accustomed to extreme heat but still need to be protected.
Dodds called the elephants into a pool on Monday morning, when temperatures had already reached 100 degrees, feeding them apples and vegetables as they swam around.
“That’s our biggest priority is keeping the elephants cool and making sure that we stay cool in the process,” she said.
Dodds says she keeps plenty of water around and wears hats, glasses and protective sleeves. She tries to get the bulk of her work done early in the day.
“It’s a little tricky dealing with the heat here in Tucson. When it’s 115 degrees you have to do some planning.”
Alfredo Chavez was hand-drying a black SUV in the full, baking sun at a car wash near downtown Los Angeles on Monday as the temperature crept past 100 degrees.
“The truth is, I don’t like it but I have no choice,” Chavez said in Spanish as a couple of his co-workers ate in nearby shade. We have to work.”
Chavez, who has worked at the car wash for seven years, said he tries to keep cool during heat waves by wearing a baseball cap. Other than that, “there’s nothing more you can do.”
Eric Mayweather was on the streets of downtown Phoenix on Monday to sell umbrella hats and cold drinks to other brave souls who were out and about.
Mayweather says the heat doesn’t bother him as much this year, but that wasn’t always the case.
“My first few years I almost died because it was hot,” he said.
Mayweather says he survives by staying hydrated. And he offered another tip for people out in the heat: Wear a hat. He can sell you one.
PEDAL TO HOT METAL
Arizona Pedal Cab driver Ed Dipple is no stranger to the harsh summer heat. The second-generation Arizona resident has been driving pedicabs for 22 years, and he’s seen what the heat can do.
“One guy, I started talking to him — he didn’t make any sense. That’s your first clue,” Dipple said. The man hadn’t drunk or eaten anything but cereal hours ago.
“I had to take him in somewhere, and you know, sit him down,” he said.
Dipple said that while he often hears cab riders comment about the heat, “most people are thanking me for getting them from here to there, especially if it’s a female in high-heeled shoes.”
He has some advice for those moving about in the summer heat: “Stay in the shade.”
Galvan reported from Tucson, Arizona. AP writers Samantha Shotzbarger in Phoenix, Amanda Lee Myers in Los Angeles, and Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico, contributed to this report.