Excessive heat arrives

Published 10:50 am Friday, July 22, 2011

Health officials are urging individuals to use simple measures to avoid heat-related illnesses as a dome of triple-digit heat and humidity levels has most all of North Carolina in its sweltering grip.

Air temperatures are expected to reach or slightly exceed 100 degrees Friday and Saturday. Coupled with the high humidity levels, the daytime heat index value over the next 48 hours could possibly make it feel like 115-to-117 degrees. Those ingredients led the National Weather Service office in Wakefield, Va. to place all of eastern North Carolina and Virginia under an Excessive Heat Warning until 8 p.m. on Saturday.

State Health Director Jeffrey Engel advised citizens to limit time outdoors, especially in the afternoon when the sun and temperatures are at their peak. For those whose jobs require them to be outside, Engel recommended drinking plenty of water or juice to avoid dehydration and taking frequent breaks in the shade.

With many summer camps still in session, children should be closely monitored for signs of heat stress, including muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, fainting, headache, nausea or vomiting.

Elderly people also are very susceptible to complications from extreme heat. The N.C. Division of Aging and Adult Services is encouraging frequent checks on elderly family members and neighbors to be sure they are protected from the heat.

Anyone overcome by heat should be moved to a cool and shaded location. Heat stroke is an emergency – call 9-1-1 immediately.

“The majority of people seeking emergency care are between 25 and 64 years old,” Engel said. “These are folks who are out exercising, doing yard work or recreational activities, and those who have jobs that keep them outdoors. It is critical that everyone take proper precautions to avoid illness when the temperatures are high.”

It is also important to be especially sensitive to pets, allowing them to stay inside as often as possible and keeping them hydrated with plenty of water.

The heat, caused by a large ridge of high pressure in the upper atmosphere, has been building all week in the Plains states and slowly making its way eastward.

NWS officials said the dangerously high heat index on Friday and Saturday will occur between late morning and sunset. Don’t expect immediate relief after the sun goes down as nighttime temps will be in the upper 70’s, but the humidity will make it feel more in the low 80’s.

“When all is said and done, with the number of days of extreme heat and humidity of the current heat wave, it may be more significant and impact a larger area than the deadly 1995 heat wave of July 12-15,” said Senior Meteorologist Jim Andrews of AccuWeather.com.

That deadly 1995 heat wave attributed to 583 deaths in Chicago alone.

The excessive heat also prompted Dominion Power officials to urge its customers to use electricity wisely.

“Dominion always encourages our customers to use electricity prudently and to take measures that allow them to save money while remaining safe and comfortable,” said Paul D. Koonce, Dominion president and chief executive officer. “There are adequate supplies of electricity and transmission capacity to meet anticipated customer demand.”

To help lower electric bills and energy usage while keeping homes comfortable, Dominion recommends that customers:

Postpone activities that require hot water – such as washing dishes or clothes – to early morning or late evening.  This will keep from adding more heat and humidity to the home.

Avoid using your stove and oven if possible and consider using the microwave.

If you are comfortable, raise your thermostat to 78 degrees in the summer.

Turn off unnecessary lights during hot weather. They add to the heat in a house. Consider switching to cooler, energy-efficient CFL bulbs where light is needed.

Use ceiling fans and portable floor fans to move the air around in the home. If the home does not have air conditioning, fans are essential for cooling. In homes with air conditioning, fans allow residents to raise the thermostat and save energy without affecting their comfort.

Close drapes during the hottest times of the day to block heat from entering the home and to save energy.

Make sure window air conditioners are sized correctly. Ones that are too small will run constantly, but they will not cool the room. Ones that are too large use more energy than necessary.

Clean filters to window air-conditioning units and clean or replace filters to central air-conditioning systems. Clogged filters cause air conditioners to use more energy than necessary to keep a home cool.

Hopefully, the heat wave will begin to subside by later this weekend and into early next week. After a projected high temperature of 97 degrees on Sunday in the Roanoke-Chowan area, the extended forecast calls for highs in the upper 80’s to low 90’s on Monday through Wednesday. The overnight temps during that period will be in the low 70’s.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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