One of the frequent questions we get is why does the Weather Service issue heat warnings in Phoenix? We know it gets hot. It’s the desert. We never used to have heat warnings. All true. But there’s a pretty good reason they’re issued: heat is very, very dangerous.
In 2016 in Maricopa County, 130 people died either heat-caused or heat related deaths. Contrast that with this information: in 2016 there was one lightning death in the entire state of Arizona and no flood related deaths. And a graph of the number of deaths by the Maricopa County Health Department since 2001 shows an alarming increase.
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According to Barisha et al, “The incidence of heat-related illness is significantly higher among older and younger groups, people with underlying chronic diseases, and homeless persons.” About 60% of the heat deaths were “outside” with nearly one-third occurring on our hiking trails.
And a bit surprising to me, nearly 40% of the heat-related deaths occur in a home. The reason? The air conditioning isn’t working, or is turned off, or the electricity is off. This should never occur in Phoenix. The stakes are too high in the summer.
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So while heat warnings may not impact you directly, they do alert many public and private groups that it’s time to open up water and cooling stations and increase the welfare checks. And those alerts should tell all of us that perhaps tackling Piestewa Peak at four in the afternoon is not such a great idea. Also, throw a bunch of bottled water in your car. You never know when you may need it.
To check out the heat risk, here’s a informative website: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/wrh/heatrisk/
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