Heat indexes above 105 will last through next week

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Heat indexes above 105 will last through next week

Emily downgraded to low-pressure system, will bring no rain to Lowcountry, forecasters say

Published Thursday, August 4, 2011   |  1287 Words  |  

The good news: Tropical Storm Emily no longer exists.

The bad news: No storm means no rain or winds to offer some relief from the oppressive heat.

The very bad news: Expect heat indexes over 105 degrees to last through the end of next week.

Emily caused major floods and damaged hundreds of homes in Haiti before it dissipated Thursday afternoon over Hispaniola. National Hurricane Center forecasters in Miami said the storm is now a low-pressure system. All watches and warnings were canceled, and no rain from the storm is expected in South Carolina.

As the storm was disintegrating, the National Weather Service in Charleston issued its 18th heat advisory of the year for Beaufort County, again warning that heat-related illnesses are possible as high humidity with temperatures in the upper 90s lead to heat indexes of 110 to 114 degrees along the coast.

"Some of the highest values we'll see will be in Beaufort County because the humidity is higher along the coast with the moisture from the ocean," said meteorologist Jonathan Lamb.

The consistently hot weather made June and July ones for the record books.

Temperatures in the region broke 90 degrees 56 straight days until July 14, the longest such stretch on record, according to the weather service.

So far, though, last summer was worse in terms of the number of days with heat indexes above 105 degrees. The weather service issued 38 heat advisories in 2010, Lamb said.

"Early August is the hottest time of the year, but this summer has just been unseasonably warm due to high pressure that has persisted over the area," he said. "Normally, you have big ridges of high pressure in place, but it breaks down in three to four days and you get some relief with cloud cover and temperatures cool off a bit. But this year, these ridges have persisted over the eastern half of the country for weeks on end."

Hilton Head Hospital reported about 35 cases of heat-related illnesses -- including exhaustion, fainting, dizziness, cramping and dehydration -- in the past two weeks. Attempts Thursday to reach a Beaufort Memorial Hospital representative were unsuccessful.

Coastal Carolina Hospital in Hardeeville treated 15 cases of heat exhaustion in the past two weeks. Most were landscapers and construction workers, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Dr. Paul Zorch at Coastal Carolina said that among those ill from the heat were a golfer and someone who had been sitting too long in a car.

Only one of the 15 was admitted to the hospital. The others were treated and released, Zorch said.

Residents and visitors exercise caution, he added.

"Be smart. You don't have to be in the heat," Zorch said.

Recognizing heat illness

The first signs may be stomach, arm or leg cramps, as well as swelling in the feet, legs and ankles. Another early sign might be dizziness or faintness. People taking certain medications, including beta-blockers, might be more prone to heat-related dizziness. If experiencing these symptoms, stop any physical activity and move to a cooler, shady area; drink plenty of fluids; and elevate legs. If these measures don't work, contact a doctor.

Heat exhaustion is the second stage of heat illness. This means the body can't keep itself cool. Symptoms may include thirst, dizziness, weakness, lack of coordination, nausea and profuse sweating. Body temperature will be normal, but skin will feel cold and clammy. If you recognize signs of heat exhaustion, follow the steps listed above. If not feeling better soon, seek emergency medical care.

The final stage is heat stroke, which requires immediate emergency care. This is a life-threatening illness, in which the body can't regulate its temperature by sweating. Body temperature can rise so high that brain damage or death occur. The warning signs of heat stroke include a body temperature of 103 degrees or more; red, hot and dry skin; lack of sweating; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; mental confusion; and loss of consciousness.

Anyone with these symptoms should be taken immediately to the closest emergency facility. Call 911 for emergency assistance and start trying to cool the person until help arrives.

Source: Hilton Head Hospital

Avoiding heat stroke

The combination of hot temperatures and high humidity can create life-threatening illness. Local emergency room physicians and the National Weather Service encourage people to take the following precautions:

  • Stay indoors in an air-conditioned place. Fans can help, but they cannot prevent heat-related illnesses once temperatures reach the upper 90s.
  • Reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or evening.
  • Wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing when possible.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, but not ones that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar, which can cause the body to lose fluid. Stay away from very cold drinks, which could cause cramps.
  • When working outside, schedule frequent breaks in the shade or air-conditioned areas.
  • Anyone overcome by heat should be moved to a cool, shaded location.
  • Apply sunscreen that has a sun protection factor of 15 or higher about a half hour before going outside.
  • Avoid hot foods and heavy meals that can add heat to the body.
  • Caring for pets

    Even the healthiest pets can suffer from dehydration and heat stroke if overexposed, said Franny Gerthoffer, executive director of the Hilton Head Humane Association. She recommends the following:

  • Bring pets inside and keep them out of the sun during the middle of the day when temperatures are the hottest.
  • Limit outdoor activity to the early morning or evening hours.
  • Find a kennel with indoor play groups or pool for exercise, if possible.
  • Provide plenty of fresh, clean water.
  • Make sure pets have a shaded place to get out of the sun, and don't over-exercise them.
  • Know the warning signs of overheating, which include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, drooling, mild weakness or even collapse.
  • Use cool, wet towels; a hose; or a shower to cool pets.
  • Call a vet if pets have seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit, along with an elevated body temperature of more than 104 degrees.
  • Animals with flat faces, such as pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke because they cannot pant as effectively. These pets, along with elderly and overweight pets and those with health problems, should be kept in cool, air-conditioned rooms.
  • Never leave an animal alone in a parked vehicle. Core temperatures can rise quickly, leading to an emergency within minutes, regardless of whether the windows are down or the vehicle is in the shade.
  • Call the Hilton Head Humane Association at 843-681-8686 for assistance.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

    Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.

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