Heat relief on its way

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 28, 2005

Give us a break!

Mother Nature may well indeed cooperate with that collective request as the triple-digit temperatures associated with this week’s record-setting heat wave are expected to back off a bit beginning today (Tuesday).

On the heels of back-to-day days (Tuesday and Wednesday) of 100-plus degree temps, officials with the National Weather Service office in Wakefield, Va. are calling for a break in the sweltering heat. A cold front, stretching from Maine to Texas, was expected to arrive in the local area last night (Wednesday). NWS officials said they expected the system to stall across the region, heightening the chances of showers and thunderstorms, but lowering the temperature in the meantime.

Today’s forecast calls for a high of 91 degrees followed by a projected 88 degrees on Friday and 85 degrees by Saturday.

If Friday’s forecast is accurate, it would mark the first day below 90 degrees since July 14 where a high temperature was recorded at 89.6 degrees at Tri-County Airport, the area’s official weather-reporting station. Since that time, there have been 11 consecutive 90-plus degree days at the airport.

Tuesday’s official high at the airport was recorded at 100.4 degrees at 3 p.m.

Yesterday, the Roanoke-Chowan area got a larger dose of excessive heat. By 11 a.m. on Wednesday, the temperature stood at 96.8 degrees at the airport with a heat index of 107 degrees. By 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the thermometer at Tri-County Airport recorded 104 degrees with a heat index of 117.4 degrees.

Those working outside are feeling the worst of a huge dome of hot air that has swept across the nation since last week.

From lawn crews to construction workers, work has been miserable the past week and each are taking different strategies to remain functional.

Frequent breaks have helped Ruben Cooper, who operated his riding lawn mower in the sun all day Tuesday.

&uot;I work for a little while then go in to cool off,&uot; Cooper said. &uot;You have to drink plenty of water too.&uot;

Wilburt Browder, who works with Cooper and was suffering the same temperatures, has his own way of dealing with the heat.

&uot;Gatorade and plenty of it,&uot; Browder said.

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, many crews that would normally be working outside had already found shelter to avoid the dangerous temperatures – leaving many construction sites, road repair areas and even tobacco fields empty for the rest of the day.

The heat has been blamed for numerous deaths across the country, including 28 in Phoenix, Arizona alone, most of which were homeless. Temperatures rose above 120 degrees last week in some

of the western United States.

According to Angela Perez, Community Relations Coordinator at Bertie Memorial Hospital in Windsor, high temperatures have lead to an average of 237 deaths per year nationwide over the last decade, making excessive heat the number one weather-related killer.

Hot weather can cause heat stroke, said Dr. Phillip Harris, a physician at Bertie Memorial Hospital in Windsor.

Heat stroke occurs when your body’s cooling system stops working and your core temperature begins to rise to dangerous levels, he said.

Typically, the heat stroke victim will stop sweating and the body temperature will quickly rise to over 105 degrees, leading to brain damage, organ failure, and possibly death if the person does not receive immediate medical attention, he said.

Harris offers some advice for staying cool:

Stay hydrated.

Drink at least eight ounces of fluids before, during, and after prolonged periods outdoors.

Wear light-colored and loose clothing.

The elderly or chronically ill should be especially careful to avoid over-heating because the heat can add stress to weakened bodies.

Also, the elderly frequently have lost some of their ability to perspire, an important part of the body’s natural cooling system.

Keep in mind the signs of heat stroke, which include extreme weakness, nausea, muscle cramps, and dizziness.

If you are experiencing these warning signs, drink something cold, take a cool shower, and be sure to remove any sweat-soaked clothing.

If the symptoms show no signs of going away, seek medical attention.

Because the elderly are particularly at risk during heat waves, North Carolina’s Division of Aging and Adult Services offers Operation Fan/Heat Relief.

The emergency project makes possible the delivery of fans in each county to those who demonstrate a need for relief from high temperatures.

In Hertford County, the Council on Aging will loan out fans to anyone over the age of 60 who does not have central air conditioning.

The Council does ask that borrowers return the fans after they are no longer needed in order that they may share them next summer.

For information, call 358-7856.

In Bertie County, the Council on Aging is offering free fans to anyone over the age of 60 who does not have central air conditioning in their residence.

Those who receive the fans may keep them permanently.

For more information, call 794-5315.

Elderly Northampton County citizens can contact the Faison Senior Center (534-1012) for information concerning free electric fans.