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Woman dies while hiking Grand Canyon in 115 degree heat

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A backpacker experiencing heat illness while hiking in the Grand Canyon died, the National Parks Service says. The temperature that day was approximately 115 F.

The backpacker, 53-year-old Michelle Meder of Hudson, Ohio, was on a multi-day trip and was hiking down the Hermit trail when she became disoriented. She later became unconscious and responding rangers determined she was dead on Sunday, according to a press release from the parks service. 

The cause of death is believed to be heat-related and the parks service is investigating the incident along with the Coconino County Medical Examiner.

Park rangers are urging visitors to prepare for excessive heat in the Grand Canyon, especially hikers and backpackers. Parts of the hiking trail can reach higher than 120 F in the shade during the summer. 

Hiking is not advised between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the inner canyon, the service said, adding that most people who need emergency help are hiking between these hours. Due to limited summer staffing and the amount of rescue calls, rescue efforts may be delayed. 

Extreme heat can lead to heat heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hyponatremia — a condition where sodium levels in the blood are lower than normal — and death. 

Extreme heat warnings were issued for five states in the southwestern U.S. on Friday, CBS News’ John Vigliotti reports. Triple-digit temperatures shattered records in parts of Utah, Nevada and California, where Palm Springs reached an all-time high of 123 F.

The National Weather Service forecast most of the country will likely experience above-average temperatures over the next three months — likely making it a more dangerous summer than usual. More than 700 heat-related deaths occur each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The warm and dry weather also poses a risk for fires in the Grand Canyon. The parks service implemented Stage 2 fire restrictions for the South Rim, North Rim and Inner Canyon on Friday. The restrictions prohibit wood or coal burning camp fires, smoking and fireworks. 


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