Aug 11, 2023 - Climate

Gov. Hobbs declares extreme heat emergency

A man drinking a bottle of water.

Alonzo McAdams drinks a bottle of water given to him from a Salvation Army truck in Tucson on July 26. Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon to "support local heat relief efforts."

Driving the news: The move comes as the governor has faced criticism for not doing enough to protect people during Phoenix's longest heat wave on record, which lasted all of July.

Why it matters: As of Aug. 5, 59 people had died of heat-associated causes this summer in Maricopa County, and the county medical examiner is investigating another 345 suspected heat deaths.

What's happening: The declaration allows cities to get reimbursed by the state's emergency fund for expenses they incur related to heat mitigation.

  • The governor also signed an executive order opening two new cooling centers and heat relief facilities on Capitol Mall grounds starting Saturday. They'll operate from 8am-8pm the rest of the summer.
  • She also directed state agencies to develop a comprehensive heat plan for future summers.

The intrigue: Hobbs and her staff have spent the past several weeks downplaying the need for an emergency declaration.

  • In late July, Hobbs' chief of staff Chad Campbell told Arizona's Family the governor did not plan to declare an emergency, saying she's "not going to do anything that is just for show."
  • Last weekend, Hobbs told 12 News her office had looked at the benefits of declaring a heat emergency but, "right now the resources that it would free up aren't necessarily needed. We're just keeping our eye on it."

Zoom out: Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego earlier this year asked FEMA to add extreme heat to its list of declared emergencies, a move that would unlock federal funding to protect vulnerable people during the summer.

  • U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat representing Phoenix, in June introduced the Extreme Heat Emergency Act, which would force FEMA to do just that.

Go deeper: Biden heat announcement falls short on immediate relief

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