Once temperatures reach the high 90s, electric fans like this one are no help in cooling off an individual who is at risk of developing heat exhaustion and heat stroke, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say. (Staff photo: Jim Hendricks)
ALBANY — Air conditioners in Southwest Georgia will be fighting off some of the worst heat of the summer as the dog days bear down on the area.
Katie Moore, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Tallahassee, said Tuesday that heat indices are expected to hit 104 degrees today, to be topped Thursday at 106 degrees. The actual temperature will nudge triple digits Thursday.
WHEN ARE THE 'DOG DAYS'?
The dog days — traditionally a period starting in July that is hot and dry — have different ending dates, with many almanacs (including The Farmer’s, The Old Farmer’s and Blum’s almanacs) setting the period as July 3- Aug. 11. The 1559 Book of Common Prayer has the dog days starting July 6 and ending Aug. 17 (noted to be an error) and Sept. 5. For Romans, the dog days started July 23 or 24 and ended Aug. 23 or 24.
“(Today) and Thursday we won’t be having as many thunderstorms, but with high pressure building it’s going to be drier and hotter,” Moore said. “We’re looking at 97 (today) and 99 Thursday.” The NWS forecasts for Friday and Saturday have highs of 98 each day before the expected high drops to 96 Sunday.
During the next few days, the chances of a cooling off from a thunderstorm will be less than normally would be expected during the “sea-breeze season,” which continues through the end of the month, Moore said.
“You’re going to see slightly lower chances than normal (of storms), though there’s still a chance of thunderstorms over this period of high heat,” she said. Forecasts have the chance of rain today around 30 percent and dropping to less than 10 percent Thursday before settling around 20 percent Friday and Saturday.
The humidity, which can impede the body’s ability to cool with sweat, will be lower over the period, but the temperature is still going to feel hotter than what shows on the thermometer. “Although it will be drier,” Moore said, “the heat indices are still going to be about 104 in Albany (today) and 106 in Albany on Thursday.”
Those excessively high temperature can be particularly dangerous for those working outside, as well as those in certain risk categories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in addition to outside workers, those who are susceptible to heat-related illness include young children, those 65 and older, people who have mental illness and those who are physically ill, especially people with high blood pressure or heart disease. Certain medications also can make an individual more susceptible. Other conditions that increase a person’s risk include obesity, fever, dehydration, poor circulation, sunburn and alcohol use, according to the CDC.
The heat indices are “just below our criteria for a heat advisory, but it definitely can still affect people,” Moore noted. “We want people to make sure they drink enough water, stay inside the air conditioning as much as possible and avoid excessive physical activity outside.”
Keeping cool doesn’t mean just using an electric fan when temperatures are in the neighborhood that Southwest Georgia will see the rest of this week.
“Many people think electric fans are sufficient during extreme heat,” said Michael McGeehin, PhD, MSPH, director of CDC’s Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects. “Fans may provide comfort, but they will not prevent heat-related illness when the temperature is in the high 90s.”
Those without air conditioning at home can improve their ability to cope with the heat by spending time at an air-conditioned facility such as a mall or movie theater, giving their bodies time to cool down some, CDC officials say.
The two main concerns are development of heat exhaustion and the more severe — and often fatal — heat stroke.
The CDC says that heat exhaustion develops from several days of exposure to high temperatures combined with inadequate or imbalanced replacement of fluids in the body. Warning signs include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, and fainting. The skin may be cool and moist. The pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow.
If heat exhaustion is untreated, it can progress to heat stroke, which occurs when the body can’t regulate its temperature. As the body’s temperature rises rapidly — to as high as 106 degrees in as little as 10-15 minutes — the sweating mechanism fails and the body is unable to cool down. without emergency treatment, heat stroke can cause permanent disability or death.
According to the CDC, warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees); red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating); rapid, strong pulse; a throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion, and unconsciousness.
For those who are working outdoors in the extreme heat, the CDC has these recommendations to prevent heat stress:
— Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing such as cotton;
— Avoid non-breathing synthetic clothing;
— Gradually build up to heavy work;
— Schedule heavy work during the coolest parts of day;
— Take more breaks, in shade or a cool area when possible;
— Drink water frequently, enough so that you never become thirsty (about 1 cup every 15-20 minutes);
— Avoid alcohol and drinks that have large amounts of caffeine or sugar;
— Be aware that protective clothing or personal protective equipment may increase the risk of heat stress;
— Be aware: Monitor your physical condition and that of coworkers.
Sunday, rain chances will be higher and temperatures should being to moderate some, according to forecasts.
“By Monday,” Moore said, “things are going to cool a little bit as the high pressure moves out of the area.”
Cool, however, is a relative term in Southwest Georgia in the summer. The NWS forecast for Monday is 95, still is hotter than the normal 92 for this time of year. The chance of rain also should improve by Monday, with the early NWS forecast setting the chances at 40 percent that day.