Death Valley temps tie record, at least one dead in heat wave

By GABRIELLE LEVY,  |  Updated July 1, 2013 at 3:11 PM
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The record for the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth was set nearly a century ago, on July 10, 1913.

That day, thermometers in Death Valley, California, read 134 degrees.

On Sunday, temperatures in Death Valley approached the record temperature set so many years ago. The National Weather Service recorded 128 degrees at 4 p.m., while 200 yards away, the National Park Service mercury topped out at 129.9.

The National Park Service thermometer, by the way, is the one that determines the record. Either way, the record temperature for June is 128 degrees, which was either tied or crushed by Sunday's scorching heat.

Meteorologists predict Monday's heat could top 130 degrees for the first time anywhere in the U.S. in nearly 100 years.

And while most sane people are huddling wherever they can find shade and air conditioning, a few tourists have headed to the valley in the hopes of witnessing a world record.

Visitors snapped photos with a digital thermometer that read 130 degrees and higher for most of Sunday afternoon, but park rangers later apologize for what they called "errant figures" on a display that is just "a photo op."

Pelle Uvebrant, from Las Vegas, came out Sunday to witness history.

"I came out here to experience a world record broken," he said. "That didn't happen. But I'll be coming out here every time a record might be broken."

And Jon Rice, of Longmont, Colo., ran a mile while wearing a Darth Vader costume -- including a helmet -- in an effort to break a record of his own.

Running down the center white line of Highway 190 to keep his shoes from melting, Rice attempted to set the "hottest verified run" record.

It was "abject pain," he said. "The first hundred yards are fine. The second hundred yards are all about 'Gosh. What the heck was I thinking?'"

Finishing took "grim determination."

Officials closed the gold course at Furnace Creek and park rangers warned visitors to take extreme caution.

"Our main concern is safety," said park ranger Carole Wendler. "We're advising visitors that this is not the weekend to go hiking."

At least one fatality -- a Las Vegas man in his 80s -- was attributed to the brutal heat wave, which is expected to last until Tuesday. He was found in his home, which did not have air conditioning, dead of cardiac arrest Saturday.

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