LAS VEGAS - While rain and storms are hitting some areas of the U.S., scorching hot temperatures are still plaguing much of the country. There's growing concern about these extreme heat waves that put so many lives in danger.
Here in Nevada, CBN News visited a Salvation Army canteen where a long line of people recently assembled outside as the temperature soared above 100 degrees. Workers handed out cold drinks and a sandwich right next to a city cooling shelter that is open for women and men who live on the streets.
"When you think of someone who has to live out in the heat every day and sleep in the heat, that is so dangerous," says Juan Salinas with the Salvation Army. "They're tired, they're just exhausted, and rightly so. Within this last week, we've had about five deaths, two of them were found in a car."
More than 100 people die in Las Vegas each year from heat-related causes.
Nationwide, the CDC reports the number tops 700, making extreme heat the deadliest weather in America. Part of the problem is the urban landscape.
Pavements and buildings absorb and retain heat more than natural land, creating what's known as the urban heat island effect.
"We're putting in more pavement, black pavement, more buildings, stone, concrete, thermal mass that cannot only absorb heat and let it out over the night - keeps the average temp higher - but can also reflect sunlight on other areas as well," explained Dr. Sean McKenna, a hydrologist with the Desert Research Institute (DRI).
That can push temperatures up by as much as 7 degrees in cities compared to outlying areas.
Fellow DRI researcher Dr. Erick Bandala says the public tends to downplay the dangers of extreme heat compared to other weather events. His work on heat in Las Vegas highlights those most at risk.
"What we found was that elderly is probably the most vulnerable group," said Bandala.
More specifically, that applies to adults over the age of 50 with pre-existing heart disease.
Other high-risk groups include young people abusing alcohol or drugs, the homeless, and those who work outdoors.
The good news is that heat-related illness and death are preventable.
The key is to limit time spent outside when temperatures are spiking and to carefully hydrate.
Bandala points out that, "It's not just drinking a lot of water but drinking electrolytes."
Another tool to help city dwellers fight the summer heat is urban forestry, which promotes more trees to cool cities and keep people safe.
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