Extreme tourist reveals what it’s like to be in Death Valley’s 53°C heatwave

Tourists are flocking to Caifornia’s Death valley (Picture: AP)

Hundreds of tourists are flocking to California’s Death Valley in the middle of a heatwave, despite extreme temperatures being blamed for a motorcyclist’s death over the weekend.

French, Spanish, English, Swiss and US tourists left their air-conditioned rental cars and motorhomes to take photos of the barren landscape, considered to be one of the hottest places on Earth.

‘I was excited it was going to be this hot,’ said Drew Belt, a resident of Mississippi, who wanted to stop in Death Valley on his way to climb California’s Mount Whitney.

‘It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Kind of like walking on Mars.’

Death Valley is considered one of the hottest places on Earth (Picture: Gabe Shutterstock)

Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds cautioned visitors in a statement that ‘high heat like this can pose real threats to your health’.

It comes after a motorcyclist died from heat exposure while travelling through Death Valley as temperatures reached 53.3C, while another rider was hospitalised with a heat stroke.

Emergency medical helicopters were unable to respond because the aircraft cannot generally fly safely over 48.8C, officials said.

The hottest temperature ever officially recorded on Earth was 134 F (56.67 C) in July 1913 in Death Valley.

And more extreme temperatures are expected throughout the week, with highs of 54.4C.

Tracy Housley, a native of Manchester, England, said she decided to drive from her hotel in Las Vegas to Death Valley after hearing on the radio that temperatures could approach record levels.

‘We just thought, let’s be there for that,’ Housley said Sunday. ‘Let’s go for the experience.’

Visitors walk under the sun at Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park (Picture: AFP)

The searing heatwave gripping large parts of the United States also led to record daily high temperatures in Oregon, where it is suspected to have caused four deaths in the Portland area. More than 146 million people around the US were under heat alerts on Monday, especially in Western states.

Dozens of locations in the West and Pacific Northwest tied or broke previous heat records over the weekend and are expected to keep doing so into the week.

The early US heatwave came as the global temperature in June hit a record for the 13th straight month and marked the 12th straight month that the world was 1.5C warmer than pre-industrial times, the European climate service Copernicus said.

In Oregon’s Multnomah County, home to Portland, the medical examiner is investigating four suspected heat-related deaths recorded on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, officials said.

Visitors have flocked to the park to expereince the extreme heat (Picture: AP)

A motorcyclist died attempting to ride through the extreme heat on Sunday (Picture: Getty Images)

Three of the deaths involved county residents who were 64, 75 and 84 years old, county officials said. Heat also was suspected in the death of a 33-year-old man taken to a Portland hospital from outside the county.

More extreme highs are in the near forecast with a possible high of 54.4C around midweek,

The largest national park outside Alaska, Death Valley is considered one of the most extreme environments in the world.

‘It’s impressive,’ Thomas Mrzliek of Basel, Switzerland, said of the triple digit heat. ‘It like a wave that hits when you get out of the car, but it’s a very dry heat. So it’s not like in Europe.’

Across the desert in Nevada, Las Vegas set a record high of 48.8C on Sunday.

Extreme heat and a longstanding drought in the West has also dried out vegetation that can fuel wildfires

In California, a wildfire in the mountains of Santa Barbara County grew to more than 34 square miles by Monday night.

More than 1,000 firefighters were tackling the Lake Fire, and areas under evacuation orders included the former Neverland Ranch once owned by the late pop star Michael Jackson. The blaze was just 8% contained.

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