Death Valley, Pahrump caution visitors about excessive heat

DEATH VALLEY – The driest place in the U.S. is bracing for its first extremely hot week of the year as temperatures in Death Valley National Park are expected to soar above 120 degrees.

The temperature in the park reached 120 degrees for the first time on Saturday, the news release issued by Death Valley National Park said.

The National Weather Service is forecasting highs of at least 120 in the park through Friday. This week’s highest temperature, 126 is predicted on Tuesday’s solstice, which is the first day of summer.

Death Valley park officials voiced concerns over the well-being of the park’s visitors, many of whom come from cooler countries.

The summer edition of the park’s newspaper includes heat safety information in German, French, and Italian. Rangers have already responded to multiple heat-related medical calls this season.

The world record for the highest air temperature of 134 was recorded at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913, according to the Death Valley National Park’s website. Summer temperatures often rise above 120 in the shade with overnight lows of 90.

Pahrump tourism

While Southern Nevada residents hunker down and seek a reprieve from triple-digit temperatures, hot weather is attractive to some of the international guests who traverse through Pahrump on their way to Death Valley National Park, said Arlette Ledbetter, director of tourism for Pahrump.

“We see a specific international market that increases during the hottest temperatures,” Ledbetter said.

On the contrary, Ledbetter said in September and October the town typically sees the return of snowbirds, the largest segment of Pahrump’s RV park business.

Ledbetter cautioned those who travel through the area this week should wear proper clothing and stay hydrated. She said Pahrump residents and tourists can take a break from the heat at several facilities in town.

“We are very fortunate that we have Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, which has Lake Spring Mountain, and a recreational area for off-roading and ATVing,” Ledbetter said.

Barb Conton, the owner of Death Valley Desert Tours that provides tours to Death Valley National Park and a couple of other destinations in the Pahrump area, said that her business stopped doing tours on June 1 because of the heat.

“Our focus is on being able to provide safe tours, and with heat we feel more comfortable providing tours in cooler months,” Conton said.

Conton said heat makes the experience of exploring Death Valley National Park “less enjoyable” for their clients as hot temperatures often prohibit them from venturing out.

Utilities report increase in electricity usage

The extreme heat is also causing an increase in electricity usage. Valley Electric Association Inc., a Pahrump-based cooperative, reported high loads on its system that were attributed to the current weather.

“VEA saw high loads on its system Sunday and expects a higher peak Monday as more commercial loads are on during weekdays. As of Monday afternoon, we are trending about 15 percent higher than Sunday and expect to hit our peak load year to date Monday afternoon,” said Kristin Mettke, executive vice president of engineering and compliance at VEA.

On Sunday, VEA peaked at 4 p.m. The cooperative’s highest loads this time of year are between 3 and 5 p.m., which is typically the warmest part of the day.

“VEA is prepared to serve the extra demands on load due to the heat,” Mettke said.

Desert View Hospital gives advice

Desert View Hospital officials said no patients came in with heat-related issues so far.

“Thankfully, we have not seen an increase in heat-related issues, but the emergency room is ready to treat. We are fully staffed with emergency room physicians and nurses,” said Casi Lamp, emergency room manager at Desert View Hospital.

James Oscarson, director of business development at Desert View Hospital, said the hospital is taking all necessary precautions to make sure it’s prepared, should the situation arise. “We have been through summers before. We are prepared for that,” Oscarson said.

Desert View Hospital encouraged the public to be cautious and watch out for symptoms of heat illness. The symptoms of heat exhaustion include muscle cramping, heavy sweating, weakness, cold, pale and clammy skin, a fast but weak pulse, nausea or vomiting.

If a person exhibits those symptoms, they should immediately take steps to cool down the body, and if they don’t feel better, seek immediate medical attention.The symptoms of a heat stroke include a body temperature above 103; hot, red, dry or moist skin; a rapid and strong pulse and possible loss of consciousness.

A person should call 911 immediately and try to cool down the body if they exhibit these symptoms.

Outlook offered

An excessive heat warning for Southern Nevada that was issued by the weather service on Saturday will remain in effect until Friday, June 23, 11 p.m.

Typically, Pahrump tends to run just a few degrees lower than Las Vegas for the high-temperature forecast, said John Adair, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

“There’s no sign that there’s going to be any dramatic decrease in temperatures ( until the beginning of July). Maybe there will be a few degree drop, but it’s still going to remain hot,” Adair said.

Adair said Pahrump will have a high of 110 during the day and a low of 73 at night on Wednesday. Thursday will bring a high of 110 during the day and a low of 74 at night. The high on Friday is expected to be at 109.

The official forecast typically runs for seven days, and Adair said the confidence in accuracy diminishes after that. Still, he called the current temperatures “typical” for the time of the year.

“It looks like it will be hot throughout the month before the monsoon season begins in July,” Adair said.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77