Southwest warmed by record heat wave


PHOENIX — With much of the Northeast gripped by snow and ice storms, the Southwest is riding a record heat wave that sent people to beaches and golf courses in droves Friday.

People in Phoenix and Southern California were sunning themselves in 80-degree weather, with forecasters predicting more of the same through the weekend.

Both areas are known for warm weather, but the National Weather Service said the temperatures are uncharacteristically hot for this time of year. The heat is the result of a high-pressure system off the coast of Southern California.

In the Phoenix area, the many Midwestern retirees and visitors who flock to the desert each winter were thrilled about the 80-degree days — and not being in the miserable cold back home.

Rocky Krizan, a Chisago City, Minn., retiree who spends his winters in the Phoenix area, said his daughter and two grandchildren just arrived from Minnesota and were stunned by the difference.

“When they left there at 5 o’clock in the morning, it was minus 24. That’s actual temperature and wind chill,” he said.

By 11 a.m. in Phoenix, they were at the pool in mid-70s temperatures.

Frigid cold has paralyzed the East Coast and left more than 1 million homes in the South without power. At least 21 deaths have been blamed on the treacherous weather, including that of pregnant woman struck by a mini-snowplow in a New York City parking lot.

In the Southwest, the weather service says several cities in Arizona may break February records during the Presidents’ Day weekend. Phoenix is expected to reach 87 on Saturday and 85 on Sunday. Both would be new highs for those dates.

In Tucson, the mercury is expected to hit 89. In southwest Arizona, Yuma is expected to reach 90 Friday and 91 on Saturday.

“When high pressure is stationary for long periods of time, it leads to warming temps and clear-sky days. We don’t have any weather disturbances coming through to disturb that,” said Charlotte Dewey, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Phoenix.

Southern California was awash Friday in summery conditions under warm, clear skies after a week of record-setting temperatures caused by a high-pressure front.