‘Just brutal’: Why America’s hottest city is seeing a surge in deaths

By Ariel Wittenberg | 05/21/2024 06:36 AM EDT

Climbing temperatures are colliding with a lack of planning in Phoenix. Hundreds have died.

Illustration of a person holding their hand over their eyes as they look out at the Phoenix city skyline and mountains. The sun shines bright and peeks through their fingers.

Illustration by Derek Abella for POLITICO

Summer burns in Phoenix.

Scorching pavement blisters uncovered skin. Pus oozes from burned feet and bacteria-teeming wounds fester under sweat-soaked bandages for people living on the street.

They might be the lucky ones.


Relentless heat led to 645 deaths last year in Maricopa County, the most ever documented in Arizona’s biggest metropolitan area. The soaring number of heat mortalities — a 1,000 percent increase over 10 years — comes as temperatures reach new highs amid exploding eviction rates in the Phoenix area, leading to a collision of homelessness and record-setting heat waves.