Palo Duro Canyon visitors warned of extreme heat

Palo Duro Canyon

The heat continues to be the news of the day with everyone trying to find ways to beat the rising temperatures and it was just about a year ago when it turned deadly, taking the life of a young exchange student hiking in the Palo Duro Canyon.

With our string of back to back days topping the 100 degree mark, physicians and park officials are already putting out warnings about this year's stifling heat.

Up on the rim of the Canyon, the temperature is hot enough with the thermometer rising past that 100 degree mark, but the floor of the Canyon acts like a cauldron, and the temperatures there can be a lot higher. That's high enough to be fatal.

Last year, Christin Dahlke, a 20 year old student from germany got over heated and disoriented and her body was found later by hikers.

That's a scenario park officials don't want to see play out again, so they're warning all park visitors of the danger associated with the heat.

"We won't ever close the Canyon because of the heat, but what we're trying, when it 102, 104 degrees, we're trying to get that warning out and tell them, come out here in the early morning, and get your exercise in early for sure," said Park Superintendent Cory Evans.

People reduce their body temperature by evaporative cooling or sweating. It helps keep us cool, but when you get over heated, the body will stop giving up precious fluids and by that point, you're already in trouble.

According to Dr. James "Whit" Walker with Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, "If we don't have enough fluids, then the body says, 'Wait, I can't lose that fluid, I've got to hold onto it' and you stop sweating and that's the best way to lower your temperature. If you're not sweating, you've got a problem."

Both Dr. Walker and Superintendent Evans know the importance of keeping a source of water or sports drinks with you if you're out in the heat, exerting any physical activity.

"If you're not sweating and you're not moist, there may be a problem, " said Walker. "Number one, you gotta drink fluids, gotta be hydrating if you're out in this kind of heat."

That sentiment is echoed by Evans.

"Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water and preferably sports drinks to replinish the electrolytes as well."

And they also suggest taking it easy when the temperatures are this hot, scheduling any outdoor activity for early morning or evening and to avoid the real heat of the day.