Dangerous heat settles in Central Alabama

Published 3:24 pm Wednesday, July 15, 2015

As anyone who has stepped foot outside the past few days is well aware, it’s summer in Central Alabama.

A heat advisory was in effect from noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday, as the heat index, a combination of air temperatures and humidity, climbed above 100 degrees, even approaching 110 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures were in the mid-90s.

There will be no cooling anytime soon, as forecasts call for a heat index in the triple digits through July 21.

High temperatures will remain in the mid- to high-90s through July 21, with lows in the mid-70s each day.

Forecasts call for a 30-percent chance of showers and thunderstorms on Thursday, 20 percent each day from Friday until July 20 and 30 percent on July 31.

Skies should be mostly sunny each day.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Centers for Disease Control provide tips for dealing with extreme heat.

Before exposure to extreme heat

•Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.

•Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate if necessary.

•Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.

•Install temporary window reflectors (for use between windows and drapes), such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside.

•Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.

•Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings or louvers. (Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80 percent.)

•Keep storm windows up all year.

•Listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperature changes.

•Know those in your neighborhood who are elderly, young, sick or overweight. They are more likely to become victims of excessive heat and may need help.

•Be aware that people living in urban areas may be at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than are people living in rural areas.

•Get trained in first aid to learn how to treat heat-related emergencies.

Avoiding extreme heat

•Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask him how much you should drink while the weather is hot.

•Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

•Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library–even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.

•Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high-90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.

•Wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing.

•Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.

•Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on: infants and young children; people aged 65 or older; people who have a mental illness; and those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure. Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

Dealing with extreme heat

•Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.

•Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage.

•Try to rest often in shady areas.

•Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).

•Listen to NOAA Weather Radio for critical updates from the National Weather Service.

•Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun.

•Stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not available.

•Postpone outdoor games and activities.

•Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings such as libraries, schools, movie theaters, shopping malls and other community facilities. Circulating air can cool the body by increasing the perspiration rate of evaporation.

•Eat well-balanced, light and regular meals. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.

•Drink plenty of water; even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine. Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; are on fluid-restricted diets; or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.

•Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.

•Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.

•Avoid extreme temperature changes.

•Check on your animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Go to a designated public shelter if your home loses power during periods of extreme heat. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).