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A dangerous heat dome brought record-setting temperatures Thursday

By Mary Gilbert, CNN Meteorologist

(CNN) — A searing heat dome will reach peak intensity Thursday afternoon and usher in the hottest day of the year so far for millions in the western US.

Temperatures Thursday topped out up to 25 degrees above what’s normal for the time of the year, making it feel like a hot July day in many locations.

Heat will continue through the weekend before easing off a bit early next week. However, many typically hot areas in the West will still have to contend with temperatures up to 10 degrees above normal.

A robust heat dome – a large area of high pressure that parks over an area, traps air and heats it with abundant sunshine for days or weeks – is driving this prolonged, unseasonable heat.

TRACK IT: Where the heat will be hottest this week

The temperatures will be dangerous for those exposed to the elements and unable to cool off. Relief from the heat won’t be found at night, either – another symptom of a world warming due to fossil fuel pollution.

Excessive heat warnings are in effect for more than 18 million people in California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. A majority of these warnings, which are the most extreme form of heat alert issued by the National Weather Service, remain active through Friday.

Heat has already taken its toll. Multiple people in different parts of the US have died due to heat-related illnesses since last weekend.

Four migrants died “from heat stroke and dehydration” while triple digit temperatures baked the US-Mexico border last weekend, according to the US Border Patrol, El Paso Sector.

In the East, a 59-year-old man died of heat-related complications in Prince George’s County, Maryland, officials said Wednesday. Additional details about the man’s death, which was the state’s first heat-related death of the year, were not released.

Heat also proved challenging for firefighters battling a blaze in California’s Napa County Wednesday. Four firefighters were sent to area hospitals for injuries related to difficult terrain and “hot summer conditions,” according to CAL Fire’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit. All four are expected to make full recoveries.

More than a dozen daily high temperature records fell earlier this week in the West as the heat dome strengthened. A few dozen more could be broken through the weekend.

Flagstaff, Arizona; Reno, Nevada; and Fresno, California, are just a handful of cities where the day’s high temperature record could fall on one or more days this week.

Phoenix sizzled Wednesday but fell just short of its first 110-degree day of the year, a threshold it blew past Thursday as it soared to 113 degrees, also smashing the city’s previous record for the day by 2 degrees. High temperatures hit 111 degrees in Las Vegas, tying this year with 2010 for the earliest such reading on record in the city.

Death Valley, the hottest place in the world, clocked in with a temperature of 122 degrees, topping a daily record of 121 degrees it set back in 1996. Even the brutal desert landscape doesn’t typically get this hot until mid-to-late June.

Triple-digit temperatures will persist in California’s Central Valley into the weekend with 110s sticking around in desert areas of California, Nevada and Arizona.

Summerlike heat will expand northward Friday and reach the Northwest. Records could be broken in parts of Oregon, Washington and Idaho from Friday through the weekend.

While it won’t be record-breaking, Seattle will contend with high temperatures in the upper 70s Friday and could come close to 80 degrees on Saturday. Highs like these are 10 degrees warmer than what’s typical for early June.

CNN’s Melissa Alonso and Andy Rose contributed to this report.

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