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MONSOON 2021: Hiking in heat can have deadly repercussions in southern Arizona

Published: Jun. 14, 2021 at 4:26 PM MST|Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 7:36 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It’s a threat you can’t see, but you can sure feel it.

We already know 2020 was one of the hottest years on record, and 2021 isn’t looking much better.

“Deaths are increasing and that’s something to worry about,” said University of Arizona Assistant Professor of Planning Ladd Keith.

The Arizona Department of Health Services said the state had more than 500 heat-related deaths last year

That’s the most deaths caused by heat exposure in the past 10 years.

And 50 of those deaths happened in Pima County.

And another issue the heat brings – rescues.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department said having little to no rainfall is making matters worse

“Especially with the lack of monsoon, there is an increase in hiker rescues due to the heat,” said Sgt. Steve Ferree with the PCSD’s Search & Rescue Unit. “A lot of people try to hike to areas where they would normally be water but there isn’t anymore.”

Ferre asks everyone to take the heat seriously when planning hikes and adventuring outdoors

“When they call for help, they expect us to be there immediately,” he said. “We also have to gather our resources and get to that location as well. It takes time.”

He said every search and rescue is different.

It can take 30 minutes, or 24 hours, to find a lost or injured hiker.

Experts said the temperatures will continue to climb if we don’t do more to prevent climate change.

“If we don’t get global emissions under control, we’re looking at an 8.5-degree increase for the southwest by 2100 which would mean about 45 more days per year that would be above 100 degrees and that’s not a city I don’t want my kids living in,” Keith said.

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