Tourists at California's Death Valley took photos of the harsh desert landscape and a thermometer that registered scorching 127 degrees Saturday as a heat wave continued broiling the West.
The mercury there was expected to reach nearly 130 through the weekend — just short of the 134-degree reading from a century ago that stands as the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth.
'You have to take a picture of something like this. Otherwise no one will believe you,' said Laura McAlpine, visiting Death Valley from Scotland on Friday.
Game over: David Reyes, left, and Shavaar Hanes take a break from posing for photos with tourists as the Mario Brothers along The Strip, in Las Vegas, where mercury hit 117 degrees
In Phoenix and Las Vegas, the mercury is expected to soar to nearly 120 degrees over the weekend. The heat is not expected to break until Monday or Tuesday, when temperatures will drop down to 'chilly' 96 degrees.
The heat was so punishing that rangers took up positions at trailheads at Lake Mead in Nevada to persuade people not to hike. Zookeepers in Phoenix hosed down the elephants and fed tigers frozen fish snacks.
The scorching weather presented problems for airlines because high temperatures can make it more difficult for planes to take off. Hot air reduces lift and also can diminish engine performance. Planes taking off in the heat might need longer runways or have to shed weight by carrying less fuel or cargo.
Smaller jets and propeller planes are more likely to be affected than bigger airliners that are better equipped for extreme temperatures.
King of cool: Michael Jackson impersonator Juan Carlos Gomez drinks some water as he takes a break from posing for photos with tourists in Las Vegas
Shady character: A Mr. T impersonator shades himself from the sun with an umbrella while waiting for requests for photos along The Strip
The National Weather Service said Phoenix reached 116 on Friday, two degrees short of the expected high, in part because of a light layer of smoke from wildfires in neighboring New Mexico that shielded the blazing sun.
Las Vegas was expecting near record highs over the weekend approaching 116 degrees, while Phoenix was forecast to hit nearly 120.
Temperatures are also expected to soar across Utah and into Wyoming and Idaho, with triple-digit heat forecast for the Boise area. Cities in Washington state should break the 90s next week.
'This is the hottest time of the year, but the temperatures that we'll be looking at for Friday through Sunday, they'll be toward the top,’ said National Weather Service meteorologist Mark O'Malley. 'It's going to be baking hot across much of the entire West.'
Hazy: A jet looks like it is melting into the runway as it is distorted by the heat waves rising up from the north runway at Sky Harbor International Airport in Arizona
Beat the heat: Kayla Holdridge, 6, of Eagle, is sprayed with water at Settlers Park Friday, June 28, 2013 in Meridian, Idaho
The heat is the result of a high-pressure system brought on by a shift in the jet stream, the high-altitude air current that dictates weather patterns. The jet stream has been more erratic in the past few years.
In Las Vegas, some 200 people attending an outdoor concert at Silverton Casino learned the hard way the dangers of extreme heat when they had to be treated for weather-related nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
As many as 30 of the unfortunate concertgoers were taken to area hospitals for further treatment, according to the local fire department.
Meanwhile, in Arizona at least seven people have been found dead over the past week after falling victim to the brutal heat.
Death Valley: Tourists- like Maria Wieser of Italy- are still flocking to California's famed desert where temperatures are expected to reach 130 degrees by the end of the weekend
Death Valley, which is listed as a national park, is dotted with locations such as Furnace Creek and Dante's View, and officials are urging people to exercise extreme caution during the heat wave.
But sweltering heat is often a big draw for visitors - especially tourists from Germany and France - with hotels already booked solid during the hotter months of July and August.
Urban areas aren't escaping the heat wave either, as the National Weather Service report predict that it will hit 118 in Phoenix and 117 in Las Vegas on Sunday - a mark reached only twice in Sin City.
The easiest way to beat the heat in cities like Phoenix is to flee the desert for higher-elevation mountain cities such as Flagstaff, Sedona and Prescott which typically are much cooler.
No break for the king: Elvis impersonators decided the show must go on and they wore their hot jumpsuits on Thursday
Flagstaff could approach the record Saturday of 97 degrees, and Sedona could be in the 110 range.
As if temperatures nearing 120 degrees weren't bad enough, it's even hotter yet inside cars and on concrete and asphalt roads and sidewalks.
It can get to 200 degrees on asphalt during peak summer temperatures, presenting all sorts of hazards.
Right idea: Areas by the water will have a break this weekend as Los Angeles is only expected to hit the high 70s and low 80s but other desert areas aren't quite as lucky
Drivers should keep pets and children out of locked cars, and a person who suffers a fall on a sidewalk or a street could end up in the burn unit.
Air travelers have to deal with other problems, as bigger jetliners can handle temperatures around 126 and 127 degrees, but smaller planes may have flights delayed.
If the temperature tops 118, the air becomes less dense and changes liftoff conditions.
Cold comfort: Fireman Cary Turner in Salt Lake City has a friend pour a bottle of water over his head as portions of central and western Utah has a heat advisory in effect through the weekend
Since the start of the extreme temperatures, officials have expressed concern about immigrants who cross the desert border between Mexico and Arizona, because many succumb to exhaustion and dehydration in more mild temperatures.
At least seven bodies of immigrants have been found in the last week in Arizona, and agents in the Tucson sector rescued more than 170 people from the desert during a 30-day stretch in May and June when temperatures were even lower than expected in the coming days.