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Heat Waves and Power Failures Are Creating a Deadly Summer Threat in U.S. Cities

June 10, 2021 Leave a comment DRI Admin

In recent years, summer heat waves have gotten worse, bringing an increase in power failures with them. Now new research has identified another severe threat to city workers during the hottest months of the year.

According to research published in Environmental Science and Technology, computer models studied three large U.S. cities – Atlanta, Detroit and Phoenix – and found that a combination of blackout and heat wave would expose at least two-thirds of residents to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Specifically:

  • Atlanta – More than 70% of residents would be exposed to indoor temperatures equal to or greater than 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Detroit – About 68% exposed to the same temperatures, and
  • Phoenix – Since the vast majority of residents rely on air-conditioning, the entire 1.7 million population would be at risk.

While cooling centers are available in each city to those who need it, they’re only set up to accommodate up to 2% of the local population.

Excessive heat is considered the most dangerous severe-weather event type, and climate change is intensifying them. One estimate says heat kills around 12,000 Americans each year. Combined with the fact that since 2015 the number of blackouts has doubled – especially in the summer when air conditioning causes increased strain on electrical grids – and it’s a deadly combination that all urban organizations will need to prepare for.