Tricounty News

It's hot out there: some coping tips

By Julie Bulau, Staff writer

While the temperature didn't quite hit 100 degrees in Stearns County during last week's heat wave, the mixture of temps in the 90s and tropical dew points sure made it uncomfortable-pushing the heat index to a sweltering 105-110 degrees.

The conditions prompted the National Weather Service to issue an extreme heat advisory July 2-5. Surprisingly, there were few heat-related stories to report.

The American Red Cross states that in recent years there have been more deaths caused by excessive heat than all other weather events, including floods. However, no weather-related fatalities in Minnesota were recorded.

Paul Schoenberg, director of the Emergency Trauma Center at the St. Cloud Hospital reported more heat-related cases, but mostly from people who are more sensitive to the heat because of pre-existing conditions.

A heat wave in Minnesota is defined as at least three straight days with 90-degree temperates or above, according to the National Weather Service. On average, this happens every other year, but the recent stretch was five days and that has not happened since 2006, when it happened twice, July 12-16 and July 23-31.

Looking back, St. Cloud has recorded only 59 days with a high of at least 100 degrees, and most of those occurred during the first half of the 20th century with only 10 days above 100 since 1950. A majority of those days occurred in the heat wave and drought of 1988 when the thermometer climbed over 100 seven times.

Nevertheless, the recent heat wave was nothing to take lightly. On July 2, Kimball Railcar Repair and RM Johnson, the parent company, which does metal welding, closed for the week. Other businesses cut back hours and scaled down outdoor work. The mid-week holiday also provided a welcome break as people flocked to area lakes and pools.

"Your best defense against heat-related illness is prevention. Staying cool and making simple changes in your fluid intake, activities, and clothing during hot weather, can help you remain safe and healthy," states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.

The Minnesota Safety Council offers the follow common-sense tips:

• Drink plenty of water before, after and during any physical activity. Water is the best fluid replenisher. Be aware that alcohol and beverages containing caffeine (colas, iced teas, coffee, etc.) can be dehydrating. Even though you may not feel thirsty, your body may be dehydrated.

• Pay close attention to weather reports and, if possible, adjust your schedule accordingly. Try to do the most strenuous tasks in the early morning or evening when temperatures are cooler. Allow yourself time to adjust to the hotter weather.

• Wear light-colored, loosely-woven cotton clothing. The light color reflects the sun and the natural fabric allows for air circulation. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat can help keep you cool as well. Be sure that exposed skin is protected with a sun screen of SPF 15 or above.

• When working outdoors be sure to take frequent breaks out of the sun in shady, cool areas.

• If you take prescription medication, ask your doctor about any adverse reactions to heat or sunlight.

• Check on elderly family members and friends or those who spend a majority of their time indoors. Make sure they are comfortable and that their homes have good ventilation.

Humans aren't the only ones who can struggle with the heat. Landwehr Dairy near Watkins kept its misters and fans in the barn running constantly during the heat wave in order to keep their 750 Holstein cows as comfortable as possible. Extreme heat can affect the cow's milk production.

Moreover, pets such as dogs and cats, which don't sweat like people, also need protection from the heat. Avoid leaving a pet alone in a car even for a short time. Also, don't plan on jogging or walking with a pet in the heat of the day, and make sure they have immediate access to water.