Residents urged to be careful as summer’s first heat wave settles in

Published 6:24 pm Monday, June 10, 2013

If they haven’t already, residents will begin to feel the hot summer heat this week as a heat wave makes it’s way through Dallas County and across the state. Temperatures are forecasted to reach into the middle and upper 90s this week, which will make for some of the hottest days 2013 has seen.

“The past couple of weeks we have had different upper level systems that have come and brought in cloud cover and rain, which has kept a lot of our temperatures from rising too high,” Jessica Talley, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham said. “And now we just have this large area of high pressure that kind of acts as a bubble over the area, so to speak, and allows temperatures to increase across the area.”

And those high temperatures won’t just be felt during the day, Talley said, noting that residents will find little relief during the overnight hours as temperatures will be staying in the mid-70s to upper 80s across the area.

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“When dealing with heat, if you have to be outdoors, make sure you have access to plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated; try to take frequent breaks under shade or indoors where you can have some relief to the heat,” Talley said. “You definitely want to check on the elderly, and make sure that your pets are properly hydrated and have a place to get relief.”

Talley said that the upcoming weather will in true, Alabama form will not only be not hot, but humid as well.

“We’ve got high temperatures in the mid to upper 90s and the dew point temperatures in the 70s so you can definitely expect very humid conditions during the morning and afternoon,” she said, noting that as the high pressures come in and start to build it becomes harder for organized systems to bring relief. “So even though we might have a weak frontal system come through, it’s harder to really break that heat because of the high pressure.”

As the temperatures rise, the Alabama Department of Public Health warns the public to be alert to the warning signs of heat illnesses, which occur when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded.

Heat stroke, sometimes called sunstroke, is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106 degrees F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

Warning signs of heat stroke vary, but include the following: an extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees), red, hot and dry skin (no sweating), rapid, strong pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and unconsciousness.

First aid recommendations are to get the person to a shady area, cool rapidly in a tub of cool water, place in a cool shower, spray with cool water from a garden hose, splash with cool water or, if the humidity is low, place in a cool, wet sheet and fan vigorously.

“Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency,” Dr. Donald Williamson, state health officer, said. “A person with heat stroke is likely to be unconscious or unresponsive, so he or she cannot safely consume any liquids. Under no circumstances should you give any alcohol to a person with heat stroke or any heat illness.”

According to the Alabama Center for Health Statistics, the total numbers of heat-related deaths in Alabama in recent years are as follows: 2011, 8; 2010, 9; 2009,3; 2008, 8; and 2007, 13. In the heat wave of 1980, there were 125 heat-related deaths recorded in the state.