Phoenix residents snicker.
A heat wave is spreading across the country, giving people in the west, midwest, and northeast a taste of what Phoenix residents experience from June through September every single year.
Heat is serious business in northern latitudes. Many homes were built long before central air conditioning became a “necessity” of American life. The “lucky” people in those older homes have window air conditioning units that they install and remove on the same schedule they use to store and unpack their winter clothes. In some areas of the northwest, air conditioning is rare — since serious heat waves are also rare. And in low income homes, even the window air conditioner isn’t an option since the occupants often can’t afford to purchase such a luxury item. People are being overcome by the heat, getting sick, and dying.
To make matters worse, air conditioners use power and the power suppliers in these areas aren’t accustomed to meeting the additional demands of air conditioner users. Brownouts and rolling blackouts are all too real. You know things are bad when the media recommends unplugging cell phone chargers and televisions when not in use to limit the amount of “vampire power” these devices suck from the grid — an estimated 10% of all power use.
Meanwhile, Phoenix temperatures are below normal, in the high 90s and low 100s. The other day, it was hotter in South Dakota than it was in Phoenix. How’s that for a switch? It has some people in Phoenix snickering. After all, we tease people up north about their snowfalls and low temperatures in winter and they tease us about our hellish summers. Now we can tease them about hellish summers, too.
I’m still up at Howard Mesa where I went to escape WIckenburg’s heat — which is slightly more bearable than Phoenix’s. It’s 20° cooler here — in the 70s every day lately. Relaxing in the sun is actually something I like to do here. The other evening, as I lounged reading a book, I kind of wished I had a little blanket to tuck around me. (My blood certainly has thinned out since I left New Jersey 10 years ago.)
Yet every day, as I listen to the news on NPR, I hear about the “sizzling” heat in one place or another and the emergency cooling centers and the efforts to check on elderly people living alone. Hard to think about such heat when you’re not experiencing it.
I remember those 80/80 days in New York — that’s 80° with 80% humidity. That heat was brutal and I’d prefer a spot of shade in Phoenix in August over that. Now it’s over 100° in New York. Those people must be melting.
One thing for sure: none of my family or friends back east are teasing me about the Arizona heat right now.