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Arizona officials urge caution as another hotter-than-normal summer approaches

As temperatures warm up, health officials are reminding Arizonans to be aware of the dangers of extreme heat.

Last summer was Phoenix’s hottest in history, with 55 days reaching 110 degrees or higher. Amid those scorching temperatures,  a record 645 people in Maricopa County died from heat-related causes. 

This summer could be hotter than usual, too, said meteorologist Tom Frieders with the National Weather Service. 

"We’re showing signs of above-normal temperatures once again, we’re hoping that it’s not to that level to the record we had last year, but certainly something we’ll have to monitor," Friders said. 

Frieders said part of the reason it was so hot last year is because there was almost no monsoon moisture. The National Weather Service is forecasting up to a 40% chance Arizona will see a drier-than-normal summer again this year.

But state and county officials say they are better coordinated on heat relief preparations this year than ever before. The state  released its first Extreme Heat Preparedness plan earlier this year and  appointed a statewide chief heat officer for the first time

“We are confident this plan will put Arizona in a stronger position to reduce heat-related illnesses and deaths for years to come," said Dr. Eugene Livar, the chief heat officer, during a heat awareness press event Friday. "We cannot control the heat, but we can control our preparation and response." 

Livar and other officials at the event encouraged Arizonans to stay vigilant in high temperatures. They recommended getting air conditioners serviced early, checking in with family and neighbors when temperatures climb, and calling Arizona's 211 helpline if you're in need of heat resources. 

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent. She has produced work for NPR, New England Public Radio, Southern California Public Radio, PRI's The World, Washington Post, Reuters and more.She has a master’s degree in radio journalism from the USC Annenberg School of Journalism.She lives in central Phoenix with her husband, two daughters, and ill-behaved cat and dog. Her side-passions include photography, crosswords and hot sauce.