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The HEAT is ON!
Summer comes early to th e Sun City, with June typically recording the highest temperatures of the year.
So that means it’s also the time to beat the heat any way you can!
By Lisa Kay Tate
June in El Paso means “the heat is on,” with temperatures averaging higher than any other month.
That’s a little unusual compared to other regions of the country where July and August are typically the hottest months. It’s the dry air and sunny skies that push the Sun City’s average daily high about one degree hotter than July, when the summer monsoon season begins. The extra moisture isn’t much of a relief, since the high humidity can make July and August seem hotter (and make swamp coolers less effective).
Fortunately, there are plenty of city-run public pools and splash parks offering quick relief from the heat, as well as the area’s major water park, Wet ‘N Wild Waterworld. For those who want to cool off without getting wet, Southern New Mexico offers both high elevations and great caves to escape the El Paso heat.
Hot facts about June
Unlike some areas where the temperatures rise later in the summer, June is El Paso’s hottest month in terms of temperature, National Weather Service Meteorologist Jason Laney said. But as the saying goes, at least it’s a dry heat.
“This is true because dry air gets hotter than moist air,” Laney said. “When we get into July that is typically when the monsoon season begins.”
El Paso’s hottest recorded temperature (from 1879 to present day) was June 30, 1994 when temperatures reached 114°F.
“The earliest record of temperatures reaching 100° or above was on May 8, 1989, but almost half of our three digit temperature days occur in June,” he said. “The average start date for 100° temperatures is June 14.” (This year, the thermometer first hit 100° on May 9, just a day after the record.)
The differences between summer months are not that extreme. June’s average high temperature is 95.5°F, with July’s at 94.7°, and in August, the month with the highest temperatures recorded nationwide, around 92.
“It may feel just as hot in July and August,” Laney said. “The temperature may be lower, but it will feel just as high.”
Temperatures are recorded for the El Paso area from El Paso International Airport, he explained, and there has been an increase in the number of hot days in El Paso during the summer. One reason for this is the increase in urban areas.
“This is the urban heat island effect,” he said. “Green, grassy areas are not going to heat up as much as where there are large areas of concrete.”
For the last couple of years, there has been the start of an El Niño pattern (warm phases of a recurring climate pattern across the tropical Pacific) occurring, he added, which local meteorologists are watching. This should lead to this June being about average if not just a little hotter than usual.
“I would anticipate a handful of 100° days this year,” he said. “You should have plenty of days that are normal or above for June.”
The desert area’s extreme heat can be exhausting, but it also can be dangerous.
“Heat is the No.1 weather-related killer in the United States,” Laney said.
He said it is known as the “silent killer,” because heat-related deaths don’t get as much news attention as as deaths related to more dramatic weather hazards such as tornados.
In the latest 18-year nationwide average, from 1995 to 2012, Laney said 103 deaths a year occurred from exposure to heat, in comparison to 75 people killed by tornadoes, 79 in floods, 69 in hurricanes and 42 from lightning strikes.
“That’s a big difference,” Laney said. “Thirty-eight children died of hyperthermia as result of being left in locked cars in the heat.”
He said this isn’t always due to negligent parents, but to a simple lack of education concerning the dangers of heat in cars, even for just a few minutes. He quoted one of the National Weather Service safety campaign slogan’s “Beat the Heat. Check the Back Seat,” for both people and pets.
“On an 80° day, the temperature in a parked car can go from 80° to 120°,” he said. “On a hot sunny summer day it can rise to 180° to 200° in car. A little child’s ability to cool themselves is not as high as adults.”
Some of the more common problems associated with high temperature include sunburn, heat cramps and heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion symptoms include feeling faint or dizzy, excessive sweating, cool, pale or clammy skin, nausea or vomiting, rapid, weak pulse and muscle cramps. Treatments include common sense measures such as getting to a cooler, air conditioned place, drinking water, and taking a cool shower or using cold compresses.
Heat exhaustion, however, is not the same as the much more serious heat stroke, whose symptoms include throbbing headache, no sweating (unlike heat exhaustion), body temperature rise above 103° with red, hot, dry skin, and possible loss of consciousness. Like heat exhaustion, rapid pulse and nausea or vomiting are also symptoms. In the case of heat stroke, persons should call 911 and take immediate actions to cool the person suffering until help arrives. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) keeps information handy on its weather.gov site.
During hotter months persons should follow a few basic rules: slow down (reduce strenuous exercise during the hotter times); dress for summer (lightweight, loose and light-colored clothes), eat light, drink plenty of water, use air conditioners or portable electric fans, minimize direct exposure to the sun, take cool baths or showers, do not take salt tablets (unless directed by one’s doctor), and be aware of those most at risk for heat-related problems. Those most at risk include infants, older, sick or frail people and pets.
El Paso Extreme Weather Task Force does its part to help at-risk individuals during the summer months with its Fan Drive for the Elderly. Each year, El Pasoans are urged to donate new fans for use by the elderly or disabled through the summer. Fans may be dropped off at any El Paso fire station. They also encourage people in need of a fan to contact the Extreme Weather Task Force emergency line at 211.
Laney said another health issue with heat is dehydration, particularly in June’s dryer temperatures. The dryer it is, the quicker sweat evaporates, just like pouring water on a hot surface on a sunny day.
“This is an issue all summer long,” he said, “but in June this is big issue because as we perspire it evaporates faster. A person might think since they aren’t feeling like they are sweating as much they aren’t needing as much water, but this isn’t the case.”
Splash off, cool down
Long time area residents have their favorite ways of cooling off during June and the rest of the summer, including finding the best places to get wet. This year there are more places than ever before, and more are coming.
The El Paso area’s most popular place to cool off is Wet N’ Wild Waterworld in Anthony, Texas (see separate story). It’s one of many water-filled oases offering summer relief.
El Paso Parks and Recreation has been increasing its cooling-off options with its public pools and additions of free spray parks (splash pad areas with interactive features) throughout the city.
Parks and Recreation Public Information Officer Wayne Thornton said last year a total of 318,530 persons visited the area’s indoor pools with 35,154 more taking advantage of the outdoor pools. He said the response to the new spray parks has been big.
“We don’t count (the visitor numbers), but I would say grand openings involved thousands, and that hundreds use the facilities daily, with use increasing with warmer temperatures,” Thornton said.
In response to public request, all of the city’s eight spray parks now have shade canopies, benches, picnic tables and added trash cans.
The parks are open daily 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. from mid-April through October, located at Sue Young Park, Hidden Valley Park, Grandview Park, Westside Community Park, Marty Robbins Park, Braden Aboud Memorial Park, Salvador Rivas Jr. Park and San Jacinto Plaza. There is also one “enhanced” spray park at Pavo Real on Alameda, with two separate spray park areas, one for humans and one for dogs.
El Paso Parks and Recreation Interim Assistant Director Joe Rodriguez said people have responded very positively to their Spray Parks, particularly with the easy access for people of all ages.
“They’re the best gift that has been given to the citizens of El Paso, especially the fact that they are free and safe for young and old,” Rodriguez said.
The newest addition to the pools, the Westside Natatorium, offers a 50-meter competitive swimming pool that recently opened on Wallenberg, near south Mesa Hills.
“It is open for over 100 hours of operation to meet the needs of the competitive swimming community, but also serve (the community with) recreational swimming, programmed hours for open swim, water aerobics, water polo, water obstacle course, a water fitness mat and Learn to Swim classes,” Thornton said.
More cooling off options are also in the works by the city as, as it was recently reported that the City of El Paso and El Paso Independent School District are negotiating to put a water park at the current site of Ross Middle School. Nothing has yet been decided yet.
El Paso has several hotels with attractive pool areas that encourage local residents to book a weekend stay. Most notable is the Wyndham Airport Hotel and Waterpark near the Airport and Fort Bliss. The hotel’s seasonal water park boasts the “largest hotel swimming pool in El Paso,” as well a four-story corkscrew waterslide, and kiddie pool with a waterfall.
The planned four-acre Resort at Montecillo on the West Side will include extensive water attractions for its residents and their guests. According to the resort announcement, the water attractions will include a “lazy river pool, a beach entry resort pool, a children’s splash pad, private cabanas, an outdoor movie screen, outdoor bars with poolside food and drink service and 40 feet vertical water slides.”
One well-known resort chain, Great Wolf Lodge, may also be considering El Paso as for a future location. The family resort, which evolved from similar Wisconsin Dells family resorts in the 1990s, is known for its extensive indoor water parks, and other attractions. So far the closest Great Wolf resorts to El Paso are in Scottsdale, Ariz., Colorado Springs, and Grapevine, Texas, but any plans for El Paso have not yet been officially announced.
Other watering holes in El Paso include free splash pad areas for quick cooloffs at local open air shopping sites, including the Outlet Shoppes of El Paso, Fountains at Farrah, and Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss.
Also at Fort Bliss is their annual Aquapalooza water event, held this year June 16 at Biggs Park in Fort Bliss. The event is open to the public with free water fun, games, rides and slides. A fire truck will be on site to soak willing participants.
Wet N’ Wild
One of the area’s most popular places to cool off is Wet N’ Wild Waterworld, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary season next year. The water park’s annual attendance of about 250,000 includes a lot of repeat customers, many of them season pass holders.
“Most of our guests are from El Paso, Las Cruces and Juarez, as well as surrounding areas like Alamogordo, Silver City, and Albuquerque,” Wet N’ Wild President and General Manager Chandra Edwards-Cottingham said. “We also get our fair share of visitors from all over the United States and even overseas. July is probably our busiest month, with June running a close second.”
She said some of Wet ‘N’ Wild’s most popular events, including live music, happen in June. Mexican singer-songwriter El Komander performs June 10.
“We usually do at least two or three Spanish language concerts per year,” she said. “People love these, and it’s an opportunity to highlight some of the regional music we are lucky enough to have available. “
Wet N’ Wild has also hosted “The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson” each summer since 2011, with this year’s event on June 21.
“People all over the world join in a free, 30-minute swimming lesson on this day,” Edwards-Cottingham explained. “Last year, over 41,000 people participated (worldwide). It’s intended to highlight the benefits of swimming and promote drowning prevention.” She estimated that the Wet N’ Wild event itself has drawn more than 1,500 participants over the years.
Another annual June event is the Neon Paint Party, an after-hours, electronic dance party the park has hosted for the past seven years.
“It’s an all-ages event where people get to drench each other in glow-in-the-dark paint while enjoying the music, splashing in the wave pool, and munching on delicious food and drinks from a variety of vendors, including our very own Ribbit Café,” she said.
She said one reason Wet ‘N Wild has been so successful is by allowing guests to make themselves at home.
“At most waterparks, the average stay is a few hours,” she said. “Not so here. Our customers are often waiting outside our gates before we open, and they stay until we close those gates again. We allow guests to bring in their own food, beverages, chairs, tents, even big-screen TVs if that’s what they want. They can grill or picnic under the shade trees, relax, and make a full day of it.“
The park’s newest and biggest ride addition is the 42,750 square feet, 6-story-high Jaguar Falls. Past seasons have also seen the additions of cabanas, including some available for private rental, a large water-themed play area for kids, VIP suites, air-conditioned suites with private bathrooms, mini-kitchens and outdoor grill patios.
“We are always looking for ways to make things better for our guests and provide them with new rides, attractions, and amenities,” Edwards-Cottingham said.
Community outreach and engagement is also important to the park, she said. This includes being a part of the Anthony Independent School District’s Summer Food Program.
“For the past seven years we’ve been a host location and have been able to offers fresh, healthy lunches completely free to kids 18 and under, Monday through Friday, right here at the park,” she said. “We also donate thousands of tickets to individuals and organizations large and small, including 500 tickets a year to Candlelighters of El Paso.”
They have also offered educational scholarships to their employees, and are active in the El Paso Independent School District Education Foundation that provides classroom impact grants to teachers, and college scholarships to students. In 2016 the park was awarded Aquatics International’s Community Outreach award for its efforts.
“The more we can engage with and give to the Borderland, the more we can consider ourselves successful,” she said.
Cool New Mexico road trips
El Paso’s summers can be sizzling, with the average in June around 95.5°F, but the Sun City is within a short drive from many cooler Southern New Mexico getaways. Here’s what some nearby New Mexico road trip destinations have going for those looking to escape the heat in June:
• Ruidoso. Average June temperatures: 82° high, 47° low
Drive time to get there is two-and-a-half hours via US 54 and US 70.
Some of Ruidoso’s June events include the 2nd annual Great Mountain Bed Race and Green Chile Cookoff June 2, Pickleball Championships June 14-17 and the Ruidoso Marathon and Half Marathon June 23. This will also be the first year for New Mexico craft beer experience “Brewdoso” June 23-24.
Other favorite June destinations include Ruidoso Downs racing, which hosts Father’s Day events, and a Mexican Fiesta weekend June 22-24, and Spencer Theater, whose summer performance season is underway.
For more information: visitruidoso.com.
• Cloudcroft: Average June temperature: 74° high, 45° low
Drive time to get there is just under two hours via US 54.
Cloudcroft’s Light Opera Company hosts its free melodramas at Zenith Park June 1-2, and June 29-30, with the village’s Independence Day weekend events beginning June 30 with a parade and Street Dance on Burro Street. The Lodge hosts events all summer long, and Cloudcroft Art Workshops are underway for the first month of its summer long workshop series.
For more information: coolcloudcroft.com
• Silver City: Average June temperature: 88° high, 55° low
Drive time to get there is just under two-and-a-half hours via 1-10 West and US 180.
Silver City’s two biggest events in June include the Wild, Wild West Pro Rodeo June 13-16, at Southwest Horseman’s Park, and the free family event, Fiesta Latina June 22-24 at Western New Mexico University, with artisans, workshops, live entertainment and food.
The Farmer’s Market is also active every Saturday early May through late October along 7th Street between Bullard and the Big Ditch.
• Carlsbad Caverns National Park: Average June (and year round) temperature: 56° and humid.
Drive time to get there is just under two-and-a-half hours via US 62/180 east from El Paso.
The monument’s summer hours are now underway for self-guided and ranger led tours, and nightly bat flight programs are offered before dusk every day. There will also be Night Sky programs in June including Star Walks June 8-9, and 13-14, and Moon Walks June 22-23, suitable for all ages.
Copyright 2018 by Cristo Rey Communications