Hot. Hot. Hot.By Joe Sharkey
I love hot weather, so lucky for me I live in southern Arizona, where daytime temperatures in the summertime routinely exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But since the humidity is very low, it is a dry heat.
“So’s a pizza oven,” a TV producer friend from New York pointed out recently when we had lunch in Tucson during a reporting trip she was on throughout the Southwest.
OK, noted. While some people I know – ok, most of them – dislike excessive heat, others thrive in it. One reason: A 103-degree day with 7 percent humidity in Tucson (the current condition as I write this) feels a lot less physically oppressive than, say, a 90 degree day with 90 percent humidity in Orlando.
That is, provided you don’t get too confident and overexert yourself and forget – as some travelers do when they find themselves in a very hot place on a business trip -- that extreme heat can be extremely dangerous, and the effects can sneak up on you without much warning. More on that in a minute.
We won’t deal here with the very real issues of climate change and its perils across the board, though it does need noting that a ferocious, and very dangerous, heat wave stunned parts of Europe at the end of June, with record high temperatures of 106 in France.
Instead, let’s just focus on places where it has always been very hot, and still is. Take Death Valley National Park in California. On July 10, 1913, the highest air temperature ever reliably recorded on earth was 134.1 degrees Fahrenheit at Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley. There are some unverified claims of higher records elsewhere, but the World Meteorological Organization has certified the Death Valley one as the record.
By the start of July 2019, daily high temperatures in the 112-115 range are forecast for Death Valley, where there were three days last July with highs of 127. You’d think this would discourage human visitation, but the summer is one of the busiest times of the year at Death Valley, where so called “heat tourists” abound, many of them from Europe. Sometimes they forget just what 120-degree-plus means for the human body.
“They think if they’re not sweating, they’re not hot. But they don’t know that they’re sweating, because it’s so dry,” a Death Valley National Park official told The Las Vegas Review-Journal last summer.
Still, don’t tell that to the throngs of hard-core runners from around the world who descend on Death Valley in mid-July for what is called the world’s toughest foot-race, the Badwater 135. It starts out in scorching temperatures at Badwater Basin in Death Valley, at 280 feet below sea level, and finishes 135 miles later at the Whitney Portal trailhead, 8,300 feet up on Mount Whitney. This year, in the 42nd annual run, 46 Badwater veterans and 52 rookies are entered. The average finish time: 40 hours. And yes, most of them finish.
Now, I don’t know about you, but to me a 135-mile run over the blazing desert, with a finish line more than halfway up a 14,500-foot mountain, is a definition of wretched excess logically leading most mortals to wretched death.
A normal business traveler on a trip to the Southwest this summer is likely to notice not just the heat, but appreciation of the heat – or at least the acceptance that one can make the best of it.
Take Phoenix’s upscale neighbor, Scottsdale, which has in recent years emphasized the extreme heat (and lower prices) to draw more visitors in summer. Last summer, Scottsdale promoted a “Fahrenheit Festival” that included a road-race on June 26, to commemorate the day in 1990 when it hit a record 122 degrees there. A bit farther down the Colorado River, Lake Havasu City celebrates its own record, 128 degrees on June 29, 1994, with a Hot for Havasu festival in late June.
Farther up the desert, Las Vegas, where the temperature hit 115 last July 25, does robust meetings and conventions business in the summer, when the city averages 70 days with temperatures at 100 degrees or higher. Yet Vegas still manages during summer to attract about a quarter of its the total 42.1 million annual visitors. This includes big corporate conventions. This summer, the Microsoft Ready and Inspire show for worldwide partners is expected to draw about 40,000 in mid-July, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. On July 31 and into the start of August, another three major conventions will simultaneously draw over 125,000 attendees.
But let me add an important caveat to the hot weather travel. Lots of business travelers go for a run, or even a walk, when they’re on the road. Yes, anyone with sense knows you need to stay hydrated. But especially in the blazing hot climes in the Southwest, or excessively hot and humid conditions anywhere else, we all need to be aware of the warning signs of heat exhaustion or the more severe (and life-threatening) heat stroke – because they can sneak up on you.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion are obvious ones like thirst and profuse sweating, but also can include headache, dizziness and confusion and/or nausea. And if you’re experiencing those, you could be on the way to heat stroke, a very serious matter. Here’s an info page on extreme heat by the Centers for Disease Control.
So stay safe out there. And stay hydrated.
Memo Pad -- Officials in New York are calling for a ban on “nonessential” helicopter flights after the accident that killed a pilot who crash-landed on the roof of a skyscraper near Rockefeller Center in heavy rain on June 10. “Since 1982, we’ve had at least 30 helicopter crashes in New York City, with at least 25 fatalities,” nine House members from New York wrote in a June 21 letter to the acting chief of the Federal Aviation Administration. “There is no justification for allowing tourists to joy-ride through our skies,” they wrote, adding that “commuter helicopter flights impose risks to the community that far outweigh any benefits to the very small number of people who use them.”
… International visitors at Orlando International Airport have been growing robustly this year. In April, international traffic was up almost 20 percent over April 2018 …
… AAA says that a record of more than 49 million Americans will travel in the U.S. over the July 4 holiday period, including 41.4 million by car and 3.96 million by air. (The rest are by bus and train). The big crush will be on Wednesday, July 3. “Hands down, Wednesday afternoon will be the worst time to be on the road,” especially in major urban areas, said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX, a transportation research firm.
Joe Sharkey would love to hear your comments on this post. You can reach out to him via firstname.lastname@example.org.