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Update: 2 hikers die, 1 missing, on Tucson trails as temps spike to 115-plus

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Update: 2 hikers die, 1 missing, on Tucson trails as temps spike to 115-plus

Gauges read 115-121 degrees around Tucson

  • A map of Tucson-area temperatures Sunday.
    NWSA map of Tucson-area temperatures Sunday.

A man and woman died in separate incidents while hiking just north of Tucson on Sunday, as authorities conducted three heat-related search and rescue operations in the desert. Another hiker was still unaccounted for Sunday night.

Temperatures hit 115 degrees at the airport, with other area thermometers reading 116 — just a single degree shy of the all-time record.

A weather station east of Tucson, near Marsh Station Road, reported hitting 121 degrees Sunday afternoon around 3:20 p.m. A University of Arizona station hit 118 degrees.

A helicopter was used in the late-morning operation in the Finger Rock Trail area, where the female hiker died. Authorities have yet to release the woman's identity, but said she was not from Tucson.

Around 11:30 a.m., deputies responded to a distress call near the trail, regarding "two hikers (who) became lost and ran out of water," said a Pima County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman.

"A 22-year-old male was airlifted from the trail and transported to Tucson Medical Center. A 19-year-old female died near the trail," said Deputy Courtney Rodriguez. "It is believed that both hikers suffered from heat-related illness."

In the second deadly incident Sunday, authorities responded around 1:45 p.m. to Ventana Canyon Trail, where "a passerby was made aware of some hikers who were possibly dehydrated," Rodriguez said.

One man, reportedly from Europe, died on a trail in the canyon. Authorities have not yet released his identity, but said his death was likely heat-related.

"Deputies learned three men went hiking up the trail," Rodriguez said. "One man was able to make it down, but the other two were not seen or heard from any further. Deputies located one man deceased near the trail approximately four miles from the trailhead. One hiker is still unaccounted for."

"It is unknown if he was able to get off of the trail to safety," she said. "The Search and Rescue Unit will continue to try to piece together more information for a last known location for the hiker" and the search "may resume based on the information collected."

Another rescue took place near Seven Falls in Sabino Canyon, authorities said.

Around 12:19 p.m., a 22-year-old woman had heat-related issues and a friend called 911 for help, Rodriguez said. Deputies made contact with the hikers, provided them water, and they were able to hike out on their own.

Teams from the Pima County Sheriff's Department and the Southern Arizona Rescue Association took part in the rescues, which took place in record heat.

The afternoon reading at Tucson International Airport set a new daily record of 115 degrees, topping the old record of 112 for the date. Other weather stations around the metro area hit 116 — falling just short of Tucson's all-time high of 117 degrees recorded on June 26, 1990.

In Phoenix, the mercury hit 118.

An excessive heat warning remains in effect for Southern Arizona and the state's western deserts through Wednesday.

In the deserts west of Tucson, temperatures could top 120 degrees, said National Weather Service officials.

In a  news release, Pima County Sheriff's Department and the Pima County Health Department officials strongly encouraged people to "reschedule or revise" outdoor recreation plans, recommending that outdoor activities be limited to the early morning hours until 10 a.m. while the heat warning is in effect.

Two weeks ago, over the June 2-4 weekend, area temperatures peaked at 114 degrees, and sheriff's deputies rescued three hikers with heat-related illness. One man, 72, was rescued by deputies on June 3 and remains in critical condition after he suffered "extreme heat exhaustion" while hiking in upper Tanque Verde Falls. 

Officials recommended that people limit outdoor chores and spend the afternoon and evenings indoors areas with "sufficient cooling" and drink plenty of water.

They also said to never leave a pet, child, or anyone else in a parked car.

Researchers at San Francisco State University conducted a study in 2003 that showed that the temperature inside a vehicle can rise to 114 degrees on a 95 degree day, and will rapidly rise to 140 in under an hour even with the windows open.

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courtney rodriguez, hiking, nws, pcsd, weather

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