Heat wave settles in

Published 6:50 am Saturday, June 30, 2012

Shannon Hughes works in a yard in Troy, Ala., Friday, June 29, 2012. (Messenger Staff Photo/Thomas Graning)

Residents brace as temps hit triple digits

By Whitley Kilcrease

It’s almost July in Alabama. That means it’s hot!

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But this year the state is seeing higher temperatures than normal.

Troy’s normal highs for the end of June are usually in the lower 90s, but this weekend could host temperatures reaching more than 100 degrees, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Mark Rose.

“It’s about to be July, so we’re getting into our peak summer temperatures,” Rose said. “However, temperatures are well above what they should be this time of year. We’ve got temperatures this weekend almost ten degrees above what they normally are.”

According to rose, the Pike County area doesn’t usually see numbers this high until August.

The NWS in Birmingham issued a heat advisory Friday morning for most of Alabama that remains in effect until at least 9 p.m. Saturday night.

According to the NWS, an “intense heat wave with near record high temperatures” will continue through Saturday. Temperatures could rise to “near stressful and potentially dangerous levels” across Alabama.

That means it will be a hot and humid holiday weekend.

“The humidity is so high, you just walk outside and start sweating,” Joseph Suber said while working in his yard on Indian Creek Trail. “You’ve got to drink plenty of water and take a lot of breaks.”

Troy and Pike County residents are urged to use caution during outdoor activities this weekend while the heat advisory is in effect.

The Alabama Department of Public Health issued tips Friday advising residents what to do in case of heat-related illnesses. These occur when the body is unable to control its temperature and could lead to heat stroke, where the body’s sweating mechanism fails and temperature rises rapidly, causing the body to be unable to cool itself down. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if not treated immediately.

The warning signs of heat stroke vary, but include extremely high body temperature exceeding 102 degrees, red and dry skin with no sweat, rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea, confusion and, in some cases, unconsciousness.

“Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency,” Dr. Donald Williamson, state health officer. “A person with heatstroke is likely to be unconscious or unresponsive.”

The ADPH advises, first, to call 911 to report a heat-related emergency. While waiting for emergency services, the injured party should be taken immediately to a shaded area and cooled rapidly, such as by splashing, spraying, or dipping into cool water. Monitor body temperature until emergency care arrives. If they are delayed, call a hospital emergency room for further instructions.

According to ADPH, several heat-related deaths have occurred in the state over the past few years. There were a total of eight deaths in 2011, nine in 2010 and three in 2009. The most deaths over the past five years occurred in 2007 with 13 heat-related fatalities. The most fatalities on record for the state occurred in 1980 and totaled 125 deaths.

“It’s not quite as bad as what we’re expecting to other parts of the state, but we’re still looking at record temperatures for Troy,” Rose said. “I wouldn’t recommend staying outdoors more than an hour during peak temperature times.”

ADPH urges residents to drink plenty of water and ensure pets have plenty of water and shade. They also advise people to stay indoors, ideally in an air conditioned space.

However, most people have several outdoor activities on weekends in the summer, particularly around the Fourth of July, and aren’t going to be driven inside by rising temperatures.

Dan Smith, director of Troy Parks and Recreation, advises residents to drink plenty of fluids and stay out of the heat when possible.

“Water, Gatorade and Powerade are the best things to drink in hot weather,” Smith said. “We’ve never had anyone with heat stroke that I’m aware of, but we do have cases every year of people overheating. It’s something that can happen quick.”

For more information concerning heat-related illnesses, contact the Pike County Health Department at 566-2860 or online at adph.org. For information about heat advisories, visit weather.gov.