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Published September 1, 2020



It may be hot here, but at least we’re not in Death Valley

By John Toth / The Bulletin

The outside temperature rose to 100 degrees Fahrenheit the other day as I was driving around Brazoria County - time to turn the air conditioning to max.

The hourly news on the radio made me feel a little better. It got up to 135F in Furnace Creek, Death Valley, CA. Compared to that, we were experiencing a cool front.

My brother-in-law in Arizona has been keeping me updated on the daily temperatures around Phoenix. It was 115F that day. They have been above 110F for over a month. Even with the low humidity there, that is just too much.

If the 135F is confirmed by the National Weather Service, it will be the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth.

It beats out the previous record of 134F in 1913, also in Death Valley. But that record came into doubt some time ago, because other temperatures recorded in that region did not corroborate it. That opened the No. 2 spot to Tunisia in 1931, when the highest temperature recorded was 131F.

However, this is now also in doubt because that reading, as well as others that were made in Africa around that time, have serious credibility issues.

Just writing about this topic makes me want to turn the thermostat up a few notches.

I came to Texas in 1979 to start working at the Daily Tribune in Bay City as a cub reporter right out of college, glad to be able to find a job in my career field. I spent my first night in a mobile home with no air conditioning, trying to figure out all night how not to stick to the couch.

After making it through a tropical storm and barely avoiding a hurricane, which turned at the last minute and left Bay City alone, I decided to stay. I reasoned that I could stand the warmth, humidity and a few hurricane threats better than the freezing cold winters.

I like to wade in the Gulf of Mexico when the water temperature is almost as high as on dry land. I hated the cold ocean water in Maine. I have no idea how people can go swimming there without freezing.

I like the evening smell of the air after the sun has beaten down on the grass and trees all day. I like the morning dew that greets me as I get the paper and take the dogs for a walk.

I also like the fact that we don’t get near 100F too often.

On a visit to Arizona a long time ago, I went swimming in the Biltmore Hotel pool when the temperature was 105F. When I came out, I started to shiver as that warm dry wind blew through me and created nature’s own swamp cooler.

I don’t plan to visit Death Valley, even though I like the heat. I also like chocolate, but don’t really want to eat a pound of it in one sitting. I also like grape popsicles, but don’t feel like finishing the whole box. I like … never mind, I think I made my point.

“It’s an oppressive heat, and it’s in your face,” Brandi Stewart, who works at Death Valley National Park, told the BBC.

The park’s Facebook page may not be generating too many visitors this time of the year. It reads:

Expect high temperatures of 110°F to 120°F+ (43°C to 49°C+).
Drink plenty of water and carry extra.
Avoid hiking (after 10 a.m.).
Travel prepared to survive.
In the case of a heat-related illness, get to a cool place and seek help as soon as possible.

“Travel prepared to survive?” They don’t call it Death Valley for nothing.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)