Welcome to Arizona sign

"Welcome to Arizona, Old U.S. 93, Near Hoover Dam" by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Susan Miller can finally move around without feeling like the Tin Man from the “Wizard of Oz.

“This heat feels so good on me, you have no idea,” she said. 

Miller, 62, has arthritis and moved to Phoenix from Indiana last October and like the thousands of others who moved here since then--she is experiencing her first Arizona summer.

While it can’t get hot enough for her, others, like Yahm Reichart, are worried their flip-flops will melt into the ground.

“It feels like asphalt is burning my legs,” she said. 

This summer is expected to be hotter than average. A week before the season’s official start, Arizona already had a record-breaking six consecutive days of at least 115 degrees. Despite the heat, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates Maricopa County is the fastest-growing in the country. 

Miller’s husband, Paul, always dreamed of retiring in Arizona. His best friends live here, as well as some cousins. 

“It's getting closer to retirement age, and we started looking at houses three or four years ago,” she said. Before they made the move, they scoped out areas and made sure they could handle the heat.

And they can. Susan has been sitting outside on her partially covered patio. “I'm very comfortable,” she said. “If it gets hot, you just go inside for a while and cool off.” Even with their thermostat set at 80 degrees, Paul goes outside at various times of the day to warm up. “He gets cold inside.”

Reichart moved to Arizona June 16 with her fiance,Adam Levin, from Alabama. It wasn’t her idea.

“I told him that if he comes with me for graduate school, the next place we move he gets to pick,” she said. Reichart is studying to become a librarian. Levin is studying to become an urban and environmental planner and it is his graduate program at the Arizona State University that brought them to Chandler.

Reichart “is all about the humidity” and loved the humid Alabama summers. She knew that coming to Arizona would mean dry heat.

“I was really dreading it, but this heat---I just feel like I’m turning into a raisin and it’s very weird to be so thirsty all the time,” she joked. “I don’t understand why there’s such a big city in this desert, it’s very confusing. There’s no water anywhere, like why are there people here?’” 

Levin was excited for the dry heat--which he calls more honest than humidity.

“You know, in a humid place, it'll say it's 80 but it feels like 100,” Reichart said of Levin’s take.

Marvin Percha, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Phoenix, said it’s surprising that Arizona already reached such high temperatures so early in the year. 

“That was quite an unusual heat wave, not only from the intensity -- but the length of it,” he said, adding there’s a “decent chance” that Arizonans will see that kind of heat again in early July.

“Once we get the monsoon in here, we get more clouds, more moisture, so it makes it a little harder to get temperatures that hot--but certainly not impossible,” he said.

Marvin said he forecasts a “hotter than normal” summer, with highs well above 105 degrees, but “odds are probably quite slim” in the 10% range, that Arizona will see a summer as hot as last year’s.

In 2020 there were 14 days when temperatures were 115 degrees or higher, according to the weather service. 

Percha grew up in Arizona and has lived in the Phoenix area as an adult since 2012. Even after all that time, he describes the summer heat as feeling like he’s under a broiler in the oven.

Meredith Hammerman, who moved to Scottsdale in December from New York with her family, knew what she was getting into. She came for a long weekend during the summer two or three years ago.

“We rented a car, and I remember getting into the car and I burned the back of my legs on the seat. So I think I got it,” she quipped.

Hammerman and her husband wanted a slower-paced, less expensive life than the one they had in New York. Arizona made the most sense as a place to land since they have family here and her husband’s company had a relocation opportunity in Arizona, too. 

“I miss the greenery, But I get the draw. We missed a very brutal winter,” Hammerman said. 

While she is still adjusting to the heat, noting the unique predicament of it being too hot to swim, her 5-year-old daughter doesn’t seem to mind. She’s just on track to spend more of her summer indoors than outdoors.

“Back East, in the fall and the spring you were freezing in the house, and in the summer you lived it up. It’s just the reverse here,” she said.JN