Sizzling at 118: Phoenix sets a record as heat scorches US

/ Source: NBC News and news services

About 4,000 homes in the metropolitan Phoenix area were without power — and air-conditioning — on a record-shattering day of heat in one of the nation's hottest cities.

Phoenix hit a high temperature of 118 degrees on Saturday, topping a 10-year-old record of 116 degrees for the date.

The National Weather Service said clouds from monsoon activity likely kept the area from reaching 120 degrees, but forecasters said it's still the city's hottest day so far this year.

The monsoon brought wind gusts that toppled power lines and knocked out electricity to homes in Phoenix suburbs.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio ordered thousands of bags of ice to the county's outdoor jails, saying inmates could have as much as they want and for any use — including to sit on.

Above average temperatures were being seen across much of the U.S.

In most of the Southeast, highs were expected to be in the 90s, The Weather Channel said. From the lower Mississippi Valley to the southern Plains, highs were expected to be from the upper 90s to over 100 degrees. In the Northeast, temperatures would be as much as 6 degrees above average on Sunday. 

Fire scorching tribal lands
In New Mexico, a massive wildfire was burning toward the sacred sites of several American Indian tribes on Saturday, but higher humidity and rain had fire crews hoping to make progress.

More than 1,600 firefighters were working to stop the fire in northern New Mexico as it burned through a canyon on the Santa Clara Pueblo reservation and threatened other pueblos on the Parajito Plateau.

The area, a stretch of mesas that run more than 15 miles west of Santa Fe, New Mexico, includes the town of Los Alamos and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the nation's premier nuclear weapons laboratory.

The blaze reached the Santa Clara Pueblo's watershed in the canyon this week, damaging the area that the tribe considers its birthplace and scorching 20 square miles of tribal forest. Fire operations chief Jerome MacDonald said it was within miles of the centuries-old Puye Cliff Dwellings, a national historic landmark.

Authorities said the fire, in its seventh day, has been fueled by an exceptionally dry season in the Southwest and erratic winds.

Crews have managed to keep the fire in Los Alamos Canyon several miles upslope from the federal laboratory, boosting confidence that it no longer posed an immediate threat to the facility or the nearby town. Crews were helped by rain on Saturday afternoon that slowed the fire.

Hundreds of employees were returning to prepare operations and thousands of experiments for the scientists and technicians who were forced to evacuate days ago.

Storm kills child
In Wisconsin, an 11-year-old girl was killed and 39 other people were injured when a fierce thunderstorm swept through a rural county packed with holiday campers.

The storm moved across Minnesota and Wisconsin on Friday, packing winds approaching 80 mph and hail as large as softballs.

In northwestern Wisconsin's Burnett County, at least 39 people went to hospitals after the storm toppled hundreds of trees and left several thousand utility customers without power. Authorities said most of the injured were treated and released, but three were in critical condition Saturday evening.

Heavy winds upended boats in the area and blew them ashore, while an airport hangar in neighboring Douglas County collapsed onto a single-engine plane. Searches were conducted

The storm came at one of the worst times of the year for rural Burnett County: a summer holiday weekend, when the area's lakes and rivers attract tens of thousands of visitors, said Rhonda Reynolds, a regional director for Wisconsin Emergency Management.

The county population is 17,000 she said, but the long weekend drew an estimated 80,000 visitors to the county about 90 miles northeast of Minneapolis.