By Pedram Javaheri, CNN Meteorologist
A remarkable early-season heat wave, with temperatures typically seen in August, is set to bake much of Texas, the Plains and the Midwest this weekend into early next week.
As many as 120 record high temperatures across parts of at least 13 states are forecast to be tied or broken from Friday through Tuesday, with heat indices — combining temperature and humidity to forecast what it will feel like — nearing 110 degrees for some.
Some of the hottest weather will be felt across west central Texas, including the city of San Angelo. Texas is no stranger to scalding temperatures, but heat in early May typically means mid-80s, not above 100.
“It is pretty rare to get a heat wave that is looking this extreme in early May. Usually, this is the kind of heat that we see in July or August,” said Stephen Harrison, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in San Angelo.
Highs in San Angelo are forecast to soar between 103 and 105 degrees, nearly 20 degrees above seasonal averages and rivaling records that have been standing since the 1920s.
Add the humidity and it will feel closer to 110 degrees each afternoon. Much of the state will be baking in 90 to 100 degree heat and feeling even hotter this weekend.
NWS meteorologist Matthew Brady warns that given the extreme heat indices, limiting outdoor exposure is paramount this Mother’s Day weekend.
“Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are both possible during such a heat wave, so staying hydrated, staying in the shade and lower your outdoor exposure is a must if you plan on being outdoors this weekend,” said Brady, who is based in Austin, Texas.
“When heat aves come this early in the year, people are usually not acclimated, so there’s always a risk for heat-related illnesses, especially during such a prolonged event,” Harrison told CNN.
Historically speaking, heat waves are the deadliest weather disaster in the US, accounting for nearly 150 fatalities per year, more than hurricanes and tornadoes combined.
The widespread nature of the heat across Texas has already prompted officials to prepare for higher demand on the electricity grid.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) announced on Wednesday that it has asked power plants to postpone outages and return from outages already in progress “in order to serve Texans this weekend.”
According to the release statement, ERCOT will deploy all tools available to manage the grid reliably and projects there will be sufficient generation to meet demand for electricity.
The council has been scrutinized after record cold temperatures in February 2021 caused the state to see its highest electricity demand and more than 200 people died during the power crisis, with the most common cause of death being hypothermia.
It’s not just Texas sweltering in the coming days. Parts of the Southwest, Plains, South and Midwest are in for summer-like temperatures as well.
On Saturday and Sunday, more than 50 record high temperatures are expected from as far west as Albuquerque, New Mexico, to as far east as New Orleans.
By Monday into Tuesday, the record heat expands farther to the north and east, impacting St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville and Indianapolis. As many as 70 additional record highs could be tied or broken early next week, as temperatures range between the upper 80s and low 90s.
The heat will just make the drought worse
The excessive heat will add insult to injury for those battling an early fire season and continue to intensify the already dire drought conditions.
Extreme to exceptional drought — the two worst categories — in both Texas and New Mexico have greatly expanded in recent weeks and are likely to continue with the upcoming heat wave.
“This weekend’s heat wave will only further deepen the drought as the higher temperatures continue to evaporate what little moisture remains in the soils,” CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller says. “Drought and heat waves often go hand in hand in a positive feedback loop, as areas in drought tend to have less cloud cover and lower humidity, which can make heat waves more likely.”
Nearly a quarter of Texas is now in exceptional drought — the most severe category — which is the largest area for the state since 2014.
“It has been really bad, this is our wet time of year and we’re still not getting the heavy rains we need. There is plenty of dry fuels around and the extreme heat this weekend will only exacerbate the issue,” Harrison told CNN.
New Mexico saw the largest increase in the two worst categories of drought in the last week, adding more than 14,000 square miles, which is nearly double the size of New Jersey.
New Mexico, which is battling the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire — the largest fire so far in 2022 — has seen more land burned so far in 2022 than in the past two full years combined.
The Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire alone has charred more than 165,000 acres — now the second-largest fire in the state on record.
Though fire weather conditions slightly improved Thursday, another round of gusty winds coupled with the extreme heat will create high fire danger over much of the area over the weekend and into early next week.
The Northwest is having the opposite problem
Seattle and Portland, Oregon, are experiencing one of their coldest and wettest springs on record.
The recent conditions have been in stark contrast to what played out across the Pacific Northwest last spring and summer.
By this time last year, Seattle had already recorded nine 70+ degree days, en route to one of its hottest summers on record, with a historic heat wave that shattered all-time temperatures in late June.
In contrast, April 2022 went down as the third coldest over the past 45 years in Seattle, with an average high of only 47.1 degrees. This fell well short of its normal monthly high of around 60 degrees.
The city managed to tie its coldest April high temperature of all time on April 13, a chilly 44 degrees, and only managed to reach the 60-degree mark on five days, well below the average of 11 days.
Portland hasn’t fared much better. The city recorded its single wettest April on record, tallying nearly six inches of rainfall for the month — nearly doubling its April average.
The city recorded at least some precipitation on 25 of 30 days in April, with a surplus of 125%-200% of normal for many in the region. This was in stark contrast to April 2021, when Portland only managed .39″ of rainfall for the month, marking its driest April on record.
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CNN’s Rebekah Riess and Monica Garrett contributed to this report.