Phoenix's Sizzling Streets are Severely Burning Some Who Touch Them

Jul 8, 2024

Phoenix just endured the hottest June on record. People are getting burned to death there by simply falling on the ground. Sizzling temperatures are heating the pavement. And they're hot enough to inflict second and third degree burns. 

Since June 1, fifty people have been treated for severe burns at Valleywise Health Medical Center in Phoenix. It's the largest burn center in the southwestern US. Four of those patients have died as June average daytime temperatures peaked at 109.5 degrees Fahrenheit (°F). The extreme heat sent asphalt temperatures soaring even higher. They've reached up to 170°F. That's hot enough to inflict contact burns within seconds. 

That “is not that far away from boiling,” Kevin Foster, the burn center's director, told reporters last week. He said “it only takes just a fraction of a second" to suffer a severe burn when the ground is so hot.   

A newly released NASA map that reflects data gathered June 19 by the International Space Station showed large swaths of the city, where there are fewer trees, running up surface temperatures as high as 160°F. Health experts say that with climate change pushing up temperatures worldwide, this problem is likely to spread to other cities. 

For Phoenix, it's a repeat of last summer. Then, the city suffered 32 straight days of 110°F temperatures or higher in mid-summer. During the three months of summer 2023, Valleywise admitted 136 contact burn patients. Fourteen of them died. 

One of the survivors was 71-year-old Bob Woolley. He suffered third-degree burns on 15% of his body when he fell on his backyard patio on July 3, 2023. He spent several months in the hospital.

 “I'll tell you, it can happen to you,” Woolley told reporters.    

Reflect: What are some challenges that people might face in extremely hot weather, and what can we do to help each other stay safe?

Photo of sidewalk in Arizona from Unsplash courtesy of Gina Santangelo.

Which detail from the story supports the claim that heat-related burn injuries in Phoenix have been fatal? (Common Core RI.5.1; RI.6.1)
a. Surface temperatures in some areas of the city reached 160°F.
b. During the three months of summer 2023, Valleywise admitted 136 contact burn patients.
c. The average daytime temperature in June reached 109.5°F.
d. Four of 50 people hospitalized with severe burns have died.
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