The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists heat is one of the leading weather-related causes of death in this country — claiming more than 600 lives every single year. With the hot and humid conditions expected this weekend, forecasters say the heat index could hit 110 degrees or even higher.
Because of that, the National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat watch for Huron County and the surrounding areas. The watch will be in effect from noon Friday until 8 p.m. Saturday.
An excessive heat watch is issued when a prolonged period of hot weather is expected. High temperatures and high humidity will combine to create a dangerous situation in which heat-related illnesses are possible.
These conditions can cause heat stress during outdoor exertion or extended exposure.
Area residents will want to be sure to drink plenty of water, wear light clothing and take frequent breaks if strenuous activities cannot be avoided during the midday and afternoon hours to avoid suffering from heat-related illnesses, according to AccuWeather.
15 degrees above normal
“It’s going to be a rough couple days,” AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Rossio said, adding the most dangerous time period will occur Friday through Sunday, when temperatures are expected to be around 95 degrees.
Rossio said the heatwave came as a combination of factors. He said a subtropical air mass and a jet stream met northward, causing the heat to rise to the northern part of the nation.
“And then the remnants of it left a lot of moisture and high dew points,” he said. “When you get high dew points with this level of heat, it becomes very dangerous because you’re much more prone to heat stroke. Because it’s so damp, your sweat can’t evaporate. That’s why its very important to stay hydrated and even if you don’t feel thirsty, it’s important to drink anyway. Heat stroke can happen very quickly.”
Rossio said the last major heatwave took place in June 2012, when the area saw a high temperature of 98 degrees. The next year was the last time this area saw 95-degree weather.
“You average right around 82 degrees this time of year,” he said. “You’re going to be at least 15 degrees above normal, give or take. It’s definitely going to be an uncomfortable couple of days.”
Seek cooling centers
These dangerous conditions need to be taken seriously, said Tracy Gibb, a Firelands Electric Coop communications and member relations specialist.
“These heat indexes are not going to be fun,” Gibb said. “Your air conditioner will probably work its hardest this weekend and it still may not keep you cool enough. It's not really designed for 100-degree weather.”
Keeping cool is of vital importance. Many communities will announce that they plan to open cooling centers.
While none in our area had been announced as of Wednesday evening, Gibb said the New London Fire Station and the Trinity Lutheran Church in Ashland previously opened their doors as a place for the public to go to cool down in these situations.
Going to the mall is one option for area residents seeking relief from the heat, she said. “Or go to a neighbor’s, family member’s or friend’s house — someplace you can cool down.”
Tanya Posey, from Norwalk Family Practice doctor’s office, offered several tips as well to help combat life-threatening heat conditions, including:
• Visit public pools or a family member or friend’s pool
• Stay inside with air conditioning if possible
• Go to movies or the mall
• Drink lots of water
• Wear sunscreen and reapply it frequently
She said it’s also important not to forget pets.
“Make sure pets are well-taken-care of,” Posey said. “Make sure they’re not left in the sun, in the car or on the hot pavement or asphalt. Their paws could become irritated on the hot surfaces.”
Pet owners also will want to ensure their furry friends have plenty of water to drink.
Gibb said Firelands Electric expects to be in peak demand hours throughout most of the day today and each day through early next week. That means residents should be aware of trying to use less electricity during high-usage hours. These warnings are normally issued in the afternoon through mid-evening hours.
Gibbs said residents are asked not to use large appliances if possible during these times and to try to save bathing and high-energy activities for the early morning hours or after the peak hours.
She said Firelands Electric members also are able to participate in a “load-management program,” which helps the residents save energy by managing when their air conditioning units use full power. Gibbs said during intervals where power is limited, the units aren’t shut down, but have the fan running and are “just cycled in a pattern” of fan use and full power. Members who volunteer for the program receive a credit to their bill each month.
Today’s Norwalk-area forecast calls for partly sunny skies a high of 91, with heat index values as high as 97.
On Friday and Saturday, the high will be about 96. Afternoon heat indices both days will range from around 105 to as high as 112 degrees, the weather service reported.
The good news is that this heatwave won’t last long.
Sunday’s high will be 90. The highs for Monday and Tuesday are projected to be 83 and 80, respectively.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Renee Duff, an AccuWeather meteorologist, contributed to this story.