The US is bracing for more extreme weather from coast to coast, with a heatwave hitting California, tornadoes in the midwest and the east expecting more rain as it continues to reel from historic flooding.
Residents of Vermont, still suffering from an onslaught of dangerous weather in recent days, are preparing for another round of severe storms in the area beginning as early as Thursday night.
Historic flooding in the state has damaged thousands of homes, businesses and roads, and has left some residents stranded. One death was confirmed by the state department of health, a 63-year-old man who drowned in his home. More than 200 rescues and 100 evacuations have taken place as a result of the extreme storms.
Across the US, more than a third of Americans were under extreme heat advisories, watches and warnings as the heatwave baking the nation spread further into California. The sweltering conditions were expected to build on Friday and through the weekend in central and southern California, where many residents were told to prepare for the hottest weather of the year by the National Weather Service.
Highs in inland desert areas were predicted to top 120F (48.8C) during the day and remain in the 80s (above 26.6C) overnight, offering little relief. Elsewhere, officials prepared to repurpose public libraries, senior centers and police department lobbies as cooling centers, especially in desert areas.
In Death Valley, visitors who dare venture into the hottest and driest place on Earth will be watching the thermometers this weekend to see if the national park in California breaks the record for highest recorded temperature there – 134F (56.6C) in 1913, according to the National Park Service.
In Vermont, as floodwaters receded, dams were holding up on Thursday and more roads reopened. But strong thunderstorms are expected to move into parts of the state by Thursday night, which could cause hail, more flash floods and even a tornado.
Transportation officials were moving equipment to areas that were considered more flood-prone to prepare for the storms as they continued to evaluate damage, including to rail lines. Amtrak and other railroad service has been suspended.
“The period we are more concerned about is Sunday because that could be more widespread and heavier, but not nearly on the scale of what we saw earlier in the week,” said Seth Kutikoff, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
Other north-eastern states have been affected by the storms, including Connecticut, where officials warned boaters and others about dangerous debris in the Connecticut River, and New Hampshire, where some roads, towns and campgrounds have seen flooding.
“We strongly encourage residents and visitors, especially campers staying at sites along rivers and streams, and campgrounds in low-lying parts, to know what to do if evacuation is needed,” said Robert Buxton, the director of the state’s homeland security and management agency.
One death in New York was blamed on the storm – a woman whose body was found after she was swept away in Fort Montgomery, a small Hudson River community about 45 miles (72km) north of New York City.
At least eight people were rescued as torrential rain deluged central Mississippi and sent water over roads and into homes and businesses. Louisville’s mayor, Will Hill, declared a state of emergency on Thursday and urged people not to drive during the storm, saying the situation was not a typical flash flood. On Thursday evening he said flood waters were subsiding but that “what we experienced was not just a 100-year flood but a 1,000-year flood”.
The extreme weather trend this week has not been isolated to the north-east: the National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for parts of Colorado and Kansas, and issued a severe thunderstorm watch for parts of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The agency also warned of severe thunderstorms in areas of Oklahoma, with risks of very large hail and damaging wind gusts.
Phoenix hit 110F (43C) for the 14th consecutive day on Thursday, putting it on track for a possible new record next week. The longest measured stretch of 110F-plus temperatures for the city is 18 days, recorded in 1974.
The overnight low temperature at Phoenix Sky Harbor international airport on Thursday morning was 95F (35C), which means temperatures may not be dropping far enough to allow people to recover after dark.
Forecasters said the long-duration heatwave was extremely dangerous, especially for older people, homeless residents and other vulnerable populations. The heat could persist into next week as a high-pressure dome moves west from Texas.
In California, with the state fair prepared to kick off on Friday in Sacramento, organizers were forced to cancel planned horseracing events due to concerns for animal safety.
Florida has experienced record-breaking temperatures this week, with the National Weather Service issuing alerts for southern parts of the state into late Thursday.
The onslaught of extreme weather has brought into focus the dire implications of the climate crisis, which rages on with little meaningful intervention from lawmakers, according to advocates. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revealed in its latest monthly global climate report that this June was the hottest month globally on record, on both land and sea.
The Associated Press contributed reporting