It’s the all-American symbol of summer: Independence Day. July 4th conjures images of warm weather and picnics, barbecues, and fireworks. But the sizzling southwestern climate in California, Arizona, and Nevada can make outdoor entertainment on the holiday unbearable and even dangerous.
WeatherBill, a company that pays businesses for disruptive weather, has released a top ten list of the cities that have had the highest recorded temperatures on the Fourth for the last 30 years. The hottest Independence Days have all come from seven cities within the Southwest region and all have topped over 100°F. In that kind of heat, traditional fireworks and barbecues can become a severe fire hazard. Too much time spent outside can also cause a range of heat-related illnesses. 688 people per year in the U.S. die from heat-related deaths, according to a 2006 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report. The CDC also estimated that from 1979-1999, extreme heat killed 8,015 people in the U.S, which is more than the deaths during that period from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.
Top Ten Hottest 4ths:
1. 2007: Needles, CA 121ºF
2. 2001: Palm Springs, CA 116ºF
3. 2007: Phoenix, AZ 116ºF
4. 2003: Needles, CA 115ºF
5. 2007: Thermal, CA 114ºF
6. 2007: Daggett, CA 114ºF
7. 2007: Las Vegas, NV 114ºF
8. 2007: Palm Springs, CA 114ºF
9. 2003: Thermal, CA 114ºF
10. 2005: Blythe, CA 113ºF
Best known for its desert climate and the fact that it is home to 10.8 miles of the famous Route 66 highway, the small town of Needles is also famous for extreme heat. The toasty town holds two spots on the record temperatures list for July 4th: #1 in 2007 when the town reached 121°F and #4 in 2003 at a slightly cooler 115°F.
Palm Springs, CA
Palm Springs takes the #2 and #8 spots on the list, with 116°F in 2001 and 114°F in 2007. Things don’t seem to be cooling down either; on June 18th of this year, Palm Springs was already up to a record temperature of 115°F.
Phoenix reached number three on the list in 2007, when the temperature on Independence Day was a sweltering 116°F. Though Phoenix was able to go on with its fireworks on the Fourth as planned, nearby Arizona communities of Flagstaff and Williams had to cancel their shows due to fire danger from the extremely hot and arid conditions, and the city of Tempe had 20 people suffer from heat-related illnesses after their outdoor fireworks festival.
Temperatures in Thermal climbed to 114°F on Independence Day in both 2003 and 2007 giving them the 5th and 9th spot on the top ten list. But as a town with an average annual temperature of 88.8°F and approximately 143 days that are over 95°F (about 30 percent of the entire year), Thermal has adjusted to hot weather. And there’s a chance that this Fourth of July could be even hotter as Thermal has already broken heat records this year. On June 18, it reached 114°F, which was 12 degrees higher than the average for that date.
The tiny town of Daggett, population 200, roasted on the Fourth of July 2007 at 114°F. But the heat isn’t necessarily bad news for Daggett. Just east of the town is the Southern California Edison Company Solar II Generating Plant, which uses mirrors and the desert heat to create electricity. Southern California Edison Company is one of the largest providers of electricity in Southern California and currently generates about 17 percent of its energy through renewable sources like the sun.
Las Vegas, NV
The Fourth was so hot in 2007 (reaching 114°F) that Las Vegas canceled its famous “Red, White and Boom” fireworks show on the strip in favor of “Red, White and Splash” where Clarke County neighborhood pools and water parks were open for free for several hours so that families could enjoy the day without risk of heat exhaustion or fire damage. Campers in the area were also not allowed campfires or fireworks due to the danger of forest fires.
With an average annual temperature of 88°F and approximately 144 days over 95°F each year, Blythe, a small town located at the California-Arizona border, gets the #10 spot on the Fourth of July list. The town is a popular winter destination for tourists, as it is often warm enough for buildings to need air-conditioning in the middle of winter. In 2003, it reached a fierce 113°F on Independence Day.
Learn how to avoid prevent heat exhaustion here.