Heat Warnings for Santa Barbarans Include Hiking the Front Country 

100-Degree Temps Forecast for Inland Areas and 80s at the Beaches

Credit: Courtesy (from file)

Hot days and nights will settle into Santa Barbara County for a long stretch from Wednesday morning through next Monday night, according to the National Weather Service. As well as bringing the dangers of heat exhaustion to residents, the hot weather means hikers on the mountain and foothill trails should be careful, both because of the heat and also because of potential fire dangers.

The steep and rocky trails that criss-cross the Santa Ynez Range have been known to bring down athletes and novice hikers alike from heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Jake Parks | Courtesy

This past May, 17-year-old Jake Parks went for a hike near Jesusita Trail with his friends, and despite having lots of water with them, he died in the hospital with his temperature registering as high as 106 degrees, said his mother, Jenni Parks. She has been working to get the word out ever since: “It was an 80, 85 degree day down here in town, just like we’re going to get this weekend,” she said. “My hope is to educate everyone. Jake was the most amazing kid, but he and his friends had no idea what the signs or the symptoms were.”

Heat exhaustion can develop into life-threatening heat stroke if the warning signs are not observed. In the early stages, when people can stop and rest in the shade and sip water, heat exhaustion causes dizziness, thirst, heavy sweating, nausea, or weakness. “When people are exerting themselves in the heat and start to feel sick, they need to get in the shade and douse themselves with the water they’re carrying,” said Dr. Robin Malone, an emergency doctor at Cottage Health. “And, you want to drink water before you become thirsty, because thirst means you’re becoming dehydrated.”

Once dehydration sets in, getting hydrated with electrolytes and cooled down will help prevent organ injury and death, Dr. Malone said. When a person stops sweating, that’s a danger sign that they can no longer cool themselves, she noted. When heat stroke is present, the person becomes confused or agitated, or even falls into coma, which can be really scary, Dr. Malone said.

Dr. Robin Malone | Credit: Courtesy Cottage Health

The best time to go hiking was during the cooler parts of the day — early in the morning or in the evening, said Kevin Hess with the Search and Rescue team: “It’s a lot hotter in the mountains than it is at the beach, so be prepared.” Hess recalled a number of calls for pets who weren’t conditioned to hike, and for people who were trying to carry them out. He also has seen people in top physical shape succumb to heat exhaustion or stroke: “It’s not something to mess around with. It’s important to know when to call for help,” he said, ” but hopefully you’ve turned around and headed downhill before you have to.”

Scott Safechuck, spokesperson for County Fire, said that requests for medical help on the trails were called in consistently to dispatch during Santa Barbara’s hot, dry summers. “Some people have little to no experience with these trails, but they want a wilderness experience,” he said. “You don’t have to go far or exert yourself too hard. You can see views and experience nature after just a five- or 10-minute hike up a trail,” he suggested. Being out in the mountains during a heat wave and low relative humidity also made hikers vulnerable if an ignition should start, Safechuck pointed out.

Meteorologists were watching Wednesday night for the possible development of not only hot, high winds but dropping humidities, which could combine for Red Flag conditions west of Goleta, said Eric Boldt of Oxnard’s National Weather Service office. That forecast would not be conclusive until closer to Wednesday night.

Temperatures in the Santa Ynez Valley are forecast to reach up to 100 degrees during the Labor Day weekend, and into the 80s and 90s on the Santa Barbara side of the mountains. Night-time temps are around 60 degrees and up. 

In residential areas, the elderly, young children, and pets can have trouble cooling off during the heat. Outdoor activities should be limited to the cooler hours of the day, such as the morning and evening, Public Health advised. Regular breaks in an air-conditioned room or cool showers are advised, as are light-weight, light-colored clothing. Cooling centers at the Goleta, Carpinteria, and Buellton libraries will open, and also at the Buellton Senior Center, during regular open hours. More detailed information is at readysbc.org.

And, as always, do not leave children or pets in a vehicle, even if parked in the shade, as cars of metal and glass can reach deadly temperatures in a relatively few minutes.


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