Leibo At Large: Scalding heat is the price Arizonans must pay



By David Leibowitz

Exactly 29 Julys ago, I landed in Phoenix for the first time, to interview for a columnist gig at this very newspaper. To this day, I can recall the airport’s automatic doors whizzing open and being hit head on by a blast of hot air not unlike standing in front of a billion-watt hair dryer.

“We don’t need to do an interview,” I told the newspaper’s then-editor, Phil Boas. “There’s no possible way this weather can sustain human life.”

As I know now — in the midst of one of the most brutal heat waves in state history — it is possible to thrive under such conditions. My personal rule is a simple one. I don’t complain about the heat until it gets to 110 degrees. Past that, all bets are off.

Given that the National Weather Service indicates it was above 110 degrees virtually every day this July, you can imagine how much complaining I’ve done this summer.

On the bright side — pun intended — at least most of us weren’t here in June 1974, when Phoenix logged a record 18 straight days of temperatures at or above 110 degrees.
My first summer here, the high temperature hit 121 on July 28, 1995. That’s the second-hottest day in Phoenix history, only surpassed by June 26, 1990, when the high was 122.

That day in 1995 was also the first time I ever wanted to punch Royal Norman, the longtime weatherman at Channel 3. It’s a personal issue I’ve since solved by refusing to watch local weather forecasts between the months of June and September.

My mom was right, it turns out. What you don’t know will still hurt you, but at least it will be a surprise.

Usually it’s about this time of year when I again ask myself the question that confronts every Arizonan who has lived here for any length of time: Is this place really worth the misery the dog days of summer deliver on an annual basis?

What’s worse: An average of 21 days a year of temperatures above 110 degrees or having to own a snow shovel and being stuck for two hours behind a plow train on your commute home?

Keep in mind, I grew up in New York. Before coming here, I lived in garden spots like Philadelphia and Trenton.

If you’ve never been to Trenton, it’s a lot like visiting Tijuana or another third world city, except the stickup men speak marginally better English. Also, Trenton is surrounded by the rest of New Jersey, which is a consolation prize not unlike Kari Lake losing the governor’s race, only to turn around and run for more offices.

Just when you think it’s over, the pain keeps on coming.

Even so, I believe the Valley represents a pretty solid return on investment for those of us who live here.

You suffer for 100 or so days, only to have 265 days of pristine sunshine, with no need to own a shovel, rock salt or tire chains.

Unlike Florida, there’s no humidity here to drench you, and unlike California, there’s comparatively few Californians to ruin the place, though they seem to keep showing up in growing numbers.

Luckily, we have weather forecasts, like what was in store for the middle week of July to frighten them off: highs of 117 on the weekend, followed by a cooling trend — down to 107 — as the miserable month fries everything in sight.

I could complain, but what is there to say? If every day in the Valley was a balmy 98 degrees with no humidity and rarely a cloud, the population of Arizona would be 70 million instead of 7 million. Scalding heat is the price we pay to keep this state livable the other nine months of the year.

David Leibowitz has called the Valley home since 1995. Contact david@leibowitzsolo.com.