As temperatures rise during the summer, the extreme heat can push the human body beyond its limits. The term “extreme heat” is described as a prolonged period (typically 2 or 3 days) where the temperature reaches 90 degrees or above. It is one of the leading weather-related causes of death in the United States according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
During a normal day, all the bodily functions and chemical reactions occur perfectly when the body temperature is sitting at 98.6 degrees. When your body is exposed to extreme heat, the process of evaporation is slowed, and the body must put in the extra work to maintain a normal temperature and to keep the body comfortable. The harder you work, the more your body generates heat, and the more the body must work to get rid of this heat. The combination of hot weather and high humidity increases any heat-related risk to your body by decreasing the amount of heat that leaves the body. If certain precautions aren’t met, exposure to the extreme heat could harm you or possibly lead to death.
So, here are a few things to do if a heat event is set to affect your area.
1. Never leave children or pets alone in an enclosed vehicle. The temperature inside a vehicle can rapidly increase within a short amount of time.
2. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid any beverage that contains caffeine and alcohol as both components could increase the process of dehydration.
3. Slow down. Avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
4. If you are heading outdoors, wear light colored clothing. Dark color clothing absorbs the sun’s rays exposing your both to more heat.
5. Check on your family, friends, neighbors, and pets to ensure they are not suffering from the excessive heat.
6. Take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors.
7. Always have an emergency plan just in case the power goes out during a heat event.
8. Spend more time in shaded areas or in places that have a good air conditioning system.
9. Pay attention to your local NWS forecast office. It is very important to know the difference between an advisory, a watch, and a warning.
First, we have a heat advisory (orange). The NWS issue this within 12 hours of the event and is implemented when the heat index temperature is set to reach 100 degrees or higher for at least 2 days.
Then we have an excessive heat watch (red). This is when the conditions for an excessive heat event look favorable within the next 24 to 72 hours. A watch is used to notify the public that a heat wave is forthcoming within the forecasting period, just the timing of the event is uncertain.
Lastly, the NWS issue an excessive heat warning (pink) if the maximum heat index temperature is set to reach 105 or higher for at least 2 days. For all of these to be issued, the night-time low temperature will not drop below 75 degrees making no room for relief.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Joseph Marino