Meteorologist Peyton Langford here with another weather blog and as summer gets underway here in Arkansas, it’s important to keep in mind heat and sun safety tips and guidelines!
Excessive Heat Watch vs Warning
- Excessive Heat Watch- Issued by the local National Weather Service Forecast Office (Tulsa for NWA and the RV) for a potential excessive heat event in the next couple of days.
- Excessive Heat Warning- Issued by the same office within about 12 hrs. of an excessive heat event. This means the MAXIMUM heat index temperature will be 105°+ for the next few days AND the minimum air temperature won’t drop below 75° throughout the day or night.
- Now a subset of a heat warning is a Heat Advisory. This is very similar to an excessive heat warning, except the maximum heat index value is slightly cooler at 100°.
I’ve mentioned the values of the heat indices needed for the watches, warnings, and advisories, but what is the heat index? The Heat Index is often referred to as the “feels like” temperature and it’s a temperature value that factors in relative humidity or how much moisture is in the air.
This table created by the National Weather Service shows the “feels like” temperature given the relative humidity and air temperature.
There are two main heat-related illnesses:
- Heat Exhaustion
- Besides heavy sweating and thirst, other symptoms include cold clammy skin like when someone is sick with a cold just that loss of color look, nausea or just overall dizziness, muscle cramps, a headache, and fainting.
- What should you do to help? Move to a cool place and loosen your clothes. Make sure you sip on some water as soon as you can, and if you have plenty of water then wet your clothes or a towel/rag and put them all over your body.
The key thing is to act fast! Heat Exhaustion can quickly lead to a heat stroke
- Heat Stroke
- One of the main symptoms, that might be difficult to measure, is body temperature. A body temperature of 103° or higher is one of the first signs of heat stroke. People experiencing a heat stroke may also have red hot skin damp to the touch, a fast strong pulse, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and loss of consciousness.
- Heat stroke is a medical emergency, so call 911 right away! Move the person to a cooler place and place cool clothes on them or a cool bath if available. It’s advised that you do not give them anything to drink. I know this may seem contradictory, but it is likely that liquids can enter the airways of a person with a heat stroke.
Excessive heat effects can be mitigated by being properly hydrated. To be properly hydrated for those outdoor activities during the summer it’s best to be pre-hydrated.
Drink a couple of glasses of water in the morning to start getting that water flowing through your body. Once you get out there, keep drinking. Every 15-30 min you should drink a cup of water or Gatorade.
That should be easy since you should be carrying extra water. Studies show you are likely to drink more water when it is easily accessible.
This may sound odd, but make sure that this extra water isn’t like ice cold, cool is better. It takes a longer amount of time for ice-cold water to be absorbed by your stomach.
For more physically demanding work, it’s best if you do it in the super early hours of the morning, like just as the sun comes up because around 8,9,10 am is when there is rapid daytime heating so it will get hot fast. Not a morning person? You can also wait a few hours after the sun goes down.
Vehicular Heat Safety
We all know in the summer when we go out to our cars and open the door then hit in the face with a blast of hot air. That being said, it can get insanely hot inside vehicles. As the sun is beating down, its shortwave radiation is absorbed by the seats, the dash, and even the steering wheel. This absorbed energy is then re-released from the inside of the car as heat in the form of longwave radiation, and since this heat can’t escape, the inside temperature can start to feel like an oven. You can see in the table below that it doesn’t take long to get very uncomfortable.
Please make sure you check your rear seats for any children or pets. Never leave them unattended in a hot car. If you do see a dog or child in a car unaccompanied call 911. While help is on its way, try every other option besides smashing the window as there could be possible legal ramifications. Look before you lock!
It’s important to keep your furry friends safe on their walks. Sidewalk temperatures get really hot and I know you may not feel it, but you’re wearing shoes and they’re not. Take a look at this graphic showing the different surface temperatures.
Ultra Violet (UV) Radiation Safety
Everyone loves fun in the sun, but you need to be sure you remember safety first! The main thing is to remember to put on sunscreen. It’s recommended you use SPF 30 or higher to block UV-A and UV-B which are the specific rays responsible for skin cancer and sunburns. It’s best you apply 15 minutes before going outside so it has time to get absorbed into your skin and reapply every 2 hours.
If you’re out on the lake or vacationing down to the beach, be sure that you’re dry before putting on sunscreen. You also might have to reapply a little sooner as the sun rays reflecting off the water can shorten that time to burn.
The most intense sun exposure is from 10 am to 4 pm, so be sure to have those sunglasses and sunscreen handy during bright sunny days.
Playground Equipment Safety
On June 29, 2023, I headed out to Wilson Park with a temperature gun to see how hot playground equipment was. Check out this video to be blown away by the insane playground temperatures!
For more information, you can go to weather.gov/heat. Also, be sure to be on the lookout for any heat advisories and/or warnings with Your Weather Authority app.
Have a fun and safe summer!