Getting' Hot in Here: World's Tallest Thermometer Back in Biz in Calif.

7.8.2014

By Neal Broverman

The icon of Death Valley — and the oft-traversed route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas — roars back to life on Thursday.

For anyone who routinely drives the nearly 300 miles between L.A. and Vegas, the site of Baker, Calif's. 134-foot tall thermometer is a welcome landmark. The thermometer, though, has not been lit nor has it recorded temperatures since 2009 because a recent owner couldn't foot the $8,000 a month electricity bill. That was depressing news for commuters and tourists, but had a much bigger impact on the tiny town of Baker (pop. 700), which saw many less people stop for food and gas — the city's lifeline.

Thankfully, the thermometer is coming back to life on Thursday, now that the family of the original owner — Willis Herron, who opened it in 1991 — controls the thermometer. The "soft-lighting" happens on Thursday, the 101st anniversary of the hottest recorded day on Earth — 134 degrees in California's own Death Valley.

"It's very important to my mom that we get it turned back on," Herron's daughter LaRae Harguess told KPCC in March. "My dad always wanted the thermometer not for personal gain of our family. He wanted to help the town of Baker, and my mom has made a commitment to pay for restoring the thermometer."

A more formal ceremony that honors Herron is planned for October. Baker is ramping up other efforts to increase tourism, including planning a UFO-themed hotel.

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