Jun 15, 2012 7:00 PM

Monsoon Safety: Extreme Heat

TUCSON - June 15 marks the official start of the Monsoon, but the heat-breaking storms don't pay attention to calendars and official beginnings. The Monsoon will come only when the conditions dictate.

Until then, we will continue to sizzle under the unforgiving desert sun. For outdoor enthusiasts, the hot weather isn't just uncomfortable, it's downright dangerous - and sometimes deadly.

Just last month, two tourists died while hiking during the heat of the day. Adam Goldberg, spokesman for Northwest Fire District, says both deaths could have been prevented. "Had they had enough water, had they been able to rest and continued drinking water until help arrived, they wouldn't have been dead today."

Health experts recommend drinking approximately a quart of water ever hour while hiking in the hot weather. Goldberg recommends being over-prepared when the temperatures soar past 100 degrees. "If you think you've brought enough water, bring twice as much," Goldberg said.

When the monsoon finally kicks in, rain will drench the thirsty desert landscape and cool things off quite a bit. But don't let those cooler conditions fool you. The temperatures will fall but the humidity will climb, so hikers, bikers, and everyone else working up must be careful. "Because it's 99 degrees instead of 104 degrees, and it's humid outside, you're going to dehydrate the same way as if you would if there were no humidity and we weren't in the monsoon storm season, Goldberg said.

The two women who died while hiking last month weren't used to the severe conditions we experience every summer in Arizona. Both live in cooler climates and while visiting Tucson, and they both underestimated how much water they would need. "More commonly, the people who suffer heat-related deaths are people from other environments, other climates, that immerse themselves into the severe Arizona climate," said Dr. Richard Amini, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at University Medical Center.

But that doesn't mean long time Arizonans are immune for the blistering sun. Even the strongest, toughest, desert dwellers need to be careful when exercising in extreme heat.


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