Sunday, June 14, 2015

Salton Sea Heat

Before I get into the threatening effects of extreme heat on humans, I’d like to begin with a story.

In addition to my chosen profession, I have delved into many other endeavors and one of those was the Salton Sea, a 35 x 15 mile salt lake in southeastern California.

Because my time to travel freely is during the summer, I learned a few things about heat from my master teacher the Salton Sea.

Because the Salton Sea is in the desert and because it’s over 200 feet below sea level, the heat is magnified.

One hundred to 105 degrees during the day is a mild day there. One hundred and 10 degrees is not the least bit uncommon. Hitting 120 degrees happens. I once saw 119 degrees.

I remember taking friends on a tour of the Salton Sea in July of 2008. We stopped at our hotel in Indio, California to check in before venturing out. My vehicle said the outside temperature was 109 degrees.

When I opened the car door, the temperature differential between the coolness of the interior and the ambient heat punched me in the chest.

But I live in Bakersfield, so I thought “Oh yeah, it’s hotter here!”

After registering, we headed southeast taking Highway 111 to the small town of North Shore to see the ruins of the North Shore Yacht Club (since renovated beautifully) and at the time the abandoned North Shore Motel was across the street.

As we arrived, the car said the external temperature was 117 degrees. We parked under the awning of what was driveway outside the motel’s front desk and as I told my guests some of the trivia, the temperature dropped to 113 degrees.

We were in the shade.

We decided to venture out.

Because we were not accustomed to 117 degrees in the sun, my suggested plan was to explore for 10 minutes, return to the vehicle to hydrate, go for another 10, and so on until our investigation was complete.

We did just that and were amazed by how drained we felt of energy despite being mindful. We also wore brimmed hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen. We also did very strict timing of our intervals in the sun.

If the 10 minutes were up and we were in the middle of a discovery, we went back to the shade and resumed our awe once we had rehydrated.

Heat has a strange way of making you think you are OK when in reality it is affecting you as much as bitter cold. In extreme heat, you don't really realize how much water you need

The back of my vehicle—I had a Ford Flex then—I kept two flats of water and the four of us easily consumed one of them on our trek that day.

Please note: the water was NOT iced down. It was ambient temperature. The desire would be to drink something cold to refresh oneself, but zapping a warmed-up body with a dose of cold could be quite dangerous.

Later, we each drank several glasses of cold water at dinner as we waited for our martinis to arrive in the air-conditioned Bistro at the Fantasy Springs Resort, but neither cold fluid nor alcohol is good with extreme heat and the sun bearing down.

When we left and headed back to Indio, it did not take long for the vehicle to say it was 119 outside.

Fortunately, it was cooler by the time we reached Indio (112 degrees), a distance of 30 miles or so.

The question I have for everyone—regardless of weather—is: Do you carry water in your car at all times?

Once the outside temperature gets above 90 degrees, the risk of prolonged exposure to heat increases. It’s worse at 100 degrees, more so at 110 degrees, and life threatening at 120 degrees.

Because modern cars are so reliable, we falsely assume they will never break down.

Prototypes of cars are tested in Death Valley at temperatures over 110 degrees to find their breaking points. Tires can de-tread themselves in that kind of heat.

So, let’s say your car overheats and you have to stop.

Or let’s say you have a tire failure and have to change it.

Got water?

I have an emergency bag in the trunk of my car with water and many other astute provisions, so I could break down and survive, but I wouldn’t want to be broken down without that bag.

As we find ourselves in summer, folks please carry water and be extremely mindful of the heat. It can kill you faster than you think.

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