With highs forecast to be in the upper 90s Friday through Sunday, the National Weather Service in State College has issued an excessive heat watch for Lancaster County until 10 p.m. Sunday. The heat index (between 100 and 110) and humidity will also be high, so it will feel even hotter than the temperature on the thermometer.
When a long time passes between brutal heat waves, we can forget how dangerous they can be. The Department of Homeland Security’s webpage notes that “extreme heat often results in the highest number of annual deaths among all weather-related hazards.”
Thus, the three-day stretch that begins Friday is one in which we should take extreme care.
How unpleasant will it be? For the first time in its history, Lancaster Central Market will be closed Saturday because of the heat, LNP’s Dan Nephin reported. Mary Goss, the market’s manager, said it has closed early because of heat at times, but this will be the first time the building, which was constructed in 1889, won’t open.
We should all take heed, too.
National Weather Service advisories should be taken seriously. Stay out of the heat as much as possible and stay well-hydrated.
In addition to taking care of ourselves in this weather, we should also watch out for those who are vulnerable: children, elderly people and animals.
Check in throughout the weekend on relatives, friends and neighbors who might be especially susceptible to struggling in this heat. (Some people are reluctant to ever use their air conditioning. Urge the reluctant to please make an exception this time and turn on the AC.)
We all know people who must be outside for their jobs, regardless of the weather. If possible, offer them a cool drink or an opportunity for a few minutes in the shade. We are at our best when we’re all looking out for each other.
We appreciate that the Lancaster County Office of Aging will be extending hours at senior centers around the county. And the Lancaster Recreation Commission is opening the Lancaster Rec Center in Lancaster city as a cooling center 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, LNP’s Colin Evans reported. Check with community or municipal officials to see what is being offered in your area, and to lend a hand to help others.
Watch for signs
Be alert to medical conditions this weekend. Here is a rundown of symptoms and treatments.
— Heat exhaustion
Signs: muscle cramping, rapid and weak pulse, overall weakness, nausea, excessive sweating, and dizziness or fainting.
Actions to take (according to ready.gov/heat): “Go to an air-conditioned place and lie down. Loosen or remove clothing. Take a cool bath. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.”
— Heat stroke
Signs: fever of 104 degrees or higher, hot or dry skin, a racing heartbeat, confusion, agitation, slurred speech, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
Actions to take: “Call 911 or get the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives.”
— Heat cramps
Signs: muscle pains or muscle spasms, especially in the stomach, arms, or legs.
Actions to take: “Go to a cooler location. Remove excess clothing. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if cramps last more than an hour.”
Most heat-related illnesses can be prevented by keeping your body cool and avoiding dehydration, Ryan Wennell, a physician at Lancaster General Hospital, wrote on the hospital’s blog.
“Drink a few cups of water one to two hours before going outside, as well as during activity when thirsty,” LNP’s Evans reported.
LNP journalists have compiled some other good advice as we head into this dangerous stretch:
— The state Department of Health advises those with illnesses and no home access to air conditioning to go somewhere that has it. Possible locations include malls and libraries.
— This should go without saying, but do not leave infants, children or pets inside a parked car for any length of time. Temperatures inside cars rise rapidly in the heat.
— Make sure pets, if they must be outside for any length of time, have access to shade and plenty of cool water. If a pet is exhibiting excessive panting or excessive drooling, get it to a veterinarian immediately.
— If an animal is suffering from heat stress and cannot be taken to a veterinarian, move it to shade, offer it cool water and pour cool water over it, advises the Pet Pantry of Lancaster County.
— On farms, heavier or fattened livestock with dark coats or with chronic health conditions are at the greatest risk for stress from heat, LNP’s Evans reported. Signs of stress in livestock can include animals bunching together, heavy panting and slobbering.
Let’s all do what we must to get through this heat wave safely.
And let’s keep our sights set on Monday, when the high is forecast to be only 82.