As scorching weather grilled west and southwest parts of the United States on Wednesday (June 16), temperatures in California’s Death Valley, famed for its record-breaking heat, reached 129 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Celsius) for the first time this year.
“This is early to have this much of a heatwave. It’s happened before, but it’s not that common,” Death Valley National Park Spokesperson Abby Wines said.
The highest temperature ever recorded in Death Valley was 134 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees Celsius) in 1913.
The heat didn’t deter local visitors and tourists from visiting the park. The thermometer just outside the Furnace Creek Visitor Center has become the main attraction with visitors lining up for pictures and hoping for a higher temperature.
To 58-year-old Chris Foster from San Diego, who is touring nationals parks this summer on his motorcycle, the heat was the least of his concerns.
“Once you get going and get all suited up, it’s not that bad. But the scenery overtakes the pain of the heat,” Foster said.
The sweltering heat didn’t stop tourists from from visiting the park’s hiking trails and vista points either.
At the iconic Zabriskie Point, 56-year-old Doug Cummings and his wife Gerry visited from Vermont to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. They said every drop of sweat was worth it.
“But just to see this place, you know, the destination and the views and the history of the place, it’s worth every minute of it,” Cummings said.
Willo Alford has lived in the valley most of her life and works at the General Store in Death Valley Village. She said she would never get used to the weather.
“I think every year it’s hard. Up to a certain temperature it’s okay, like maybe 120, but once it gets above that is when it really gets hard.”
Park Spokesperson Abby Wines said the near record-breaking temperature on Wednesday could just be the beginning of this summer’s Death Valley heat.
“I don’t know what the forecast is for this summer… But I would expect in a normal summer for this to just be the beginning” said Wines.