It's so hot in Phoenix, they can't fly planes

With temperatures soaring to a high of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, American Airlines said it was forced to ground dozens of planes at of Sky Harbor International Airport.

American Airlines canceled almost 40 flights on Tuesday in Phoenix operated by regional jets because of the heat. The National Weather Service had been forecasting Tuesday highs at 120 or higher in Phoenix for the past several days, a number not seen in the desert city in more than 20 years, but it now predicts 119.

Phoenix hit 90 degrees at 7 a.m. Monday morning, and they're shooting for a high around 116.

Tourists hitting the Las Vegas Strip will feel the sizzle Monday as temperatures could top 114 degrees.

Temperatures will become a few degrees hotter, intensifying the risk of heat illness to wildland firefighters. The reason: extreme heat.

In Indio, in Southern California near Joshua Tree National Park, the water is so hot that some of the horses at Coachella Valley Horse Rescue can't drink it. Indio reached 118 degrees on Tuesday, breaking a record that had stood for 87 years. Project superintendent Tommy Russell says his company has held weekly safety meetings to prepare for the heat, and he will send his workers home if it hits 120.

This is reminiscent of Phoenix's record-setting high temperature of 122 degrees on June 26, 1990, which grounded some airlines for the day.

The heatwave gripping the West is so intense, people in Arizona are being warned to be careful around concrete and playground equipment because touching them could cause second and third-degree burns.

It could be worse: Death Valley could see 124 degrees (51 Celsius) on Tuesday.

Many Bay Area cities shattered heat records on Sunday as a heat wave arrived over the weekend in the Southwestern U.S.

An excessive heat warning is in effect as temperatures are expected to stay above 110 degrees into the weekend.

Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said light winds, intense sunshine and extreme temperatures can be a unsafe combination.

One of the ways the body cools itself is by radiating heat through the skin into the air, but that system reverses when external temperatures climb to 110 or higher. Airline officials said both larger Boeing and Airbus aircrafts had higher maximum operating temperatures - 126 degrees and 127 degrees, respectively.

Airlines can take other steps when the temperature climbs too high.

"We continue to offer flexibility for our customers who are scheduled to arrive/depart PHX June 19-21 between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m", the company wrote in an email.

Extreme heat creates changes in the air density that make it harder for airplanes to take off. Airlines respond by imposing weight restrictions, such as carrying less cargo and fuel.

Airlines will be closely monitoring the heat this week and some flights could be affected.

  • Joanne Flowers