Area residents who have made it nearly halfway through June without turning on their air conditioners may be considering a change in practice by Sunday.
The National Weather Service long-range forecasts issued Friday morning by offices in Springfield and Little Rock, Ark., indicate the possibility of heat indexes in the upper 90s and lower 100s through the Quill’s coverage region, which extends in a 60-mile radius surrounding West Plains.
Springfield NWS officials note there is a slight possibility of some precipitation for Sunday and Monday, but overall the forecast looks dry through Thursday. While today’s high temperature is expected to peak in the mid-80s, Sunday will bring the first in a stretch of 90-degree days expected to last through at least mid-week.
The forecast temperature for Sunday, as of press time, is a high of 93 and low of 72 in West Plains. Monday’s high is expected to reach 96, with an over night low of 72; Tuesday’s high, 94, and low, 71; and Wednesday’s high, 93, and low, 69.
Heat indexes, a measure of the air temperature combined with humidity that some forecasters refer to as a “feels like” temperature, are expected by Springfield weather officials to reach the lower 100s; while overnight low temperatures are expected to be close to record numbers of the past, they are not expected to break any maximum low temperature records.
The Little Rock office, however, anticipates heat index values could reach up to 105 degrees through its coverage area, which includes north central Arkansas, “with Sunday and Monday exhibiting the most oppressive conditions.”
“As of now, we may see our first heat headlines of the year next week,” Little Rock officials wrote Friday morning, noting that overnight temperatures are not expected to cool enough to bring much relief.
“Given multiple days of oppressive heat and poor overnight cooling/relief in the forecast through the first half of next week, please be sure to check up on those who will be most vulnerable, adjust outdoor plans accordingly and make sure pets are brought inside during peak heating hours,” they added.
Like the Springfield NWS, the Little Rock office also anticipates very little rain to occur in its coverage area.
The American Red Cross of Missouri and Arkansas has issued guidance ahead of the upcoming high temperatures regarding heat-related precautions.
According to the National Library of Medicine, extreme heat causes more deaths than any other weather-related hazard, killing 12,000 people living in the U.S. each year. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report more than 65,000 people visit an emergency room every summer in the U.S. for acute heat illness.
While everyone is at risk when temperatures rise above 90 degrees, the elderly and the very young are most susceptible, say Red Cross officials. Heat-related illnesses can cause serious injury and even death if unattended.
Signs include nausea, dizziness, flushed or pale skin, heavy sweating and headaches. Anyone believed to be experiencing heat-related illness should be moved to a cool place, given cool water to drink, and ice packs or cool wet cloths should be applied to the skin. If a victim refuses water, vomits or loses consciousness, call 911 immediately, urges the Red Cross.
The organization also offers the following safety tips, definitions of heat-related illnesses and conditions and general care instructions.
- Prepare. Discuss heat safety precautions with members of your household. Have a plan for what to do if the power goes out.
- Dress for the heat. Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays. It is also a good idea to wear hats or to use an umbrella.
- Stay hydrated. Carry water or juice and drink continuously whether or not thirst is present. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine, which dehydrate the body.
- Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid high-protein foods, which increase metabolic heat.
- Slow down and avoid strenuous activity. If strenuous activity must be done, it should be done during the coolest part of the day, usually between 4 and 7 a.m. Frequent breaks should be taken.
- Stay indoors when possible. If air-conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine. Remember that electric fans do not cool, they simply circulate the air.
- Be a good neighbor. During heat waves, check in on family, friends and neighbors who are elderly or ill and those who do not have air conditioning. Check on animals frequently, too, to make sure they are not suffering from the heat.
- Learn Red Cross first aid and CPR/AED.
- Heat cramps: Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms that usually occur in the legs or abdomen. They are caused by exposure to heat and humidity, and loss of fluids. Heat cramps are an early signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.
- Heat exhaustion: Heat exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to decrease to the vital organs. This results in a form of mild shock. If not treated, the victim may suffer heat stroke. Signals of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale flushed or red skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; and exhaustion. Body temperature will be near normal.
- Heat stroke: Also known as sunstroke, heat stroke is life-threatening. The victim's temperature-control system, which produces sweat as a way of cooling the body, stops working. Body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. Signals include hot, red and dry skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing.
- Heat exhaustion: Get the person to a cooler place and have them rest in a comfortable position. If the person is fully awake and alert, give half a glass of cool water every 15 minutes, and have the person drink slowly. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths to the skin. Fan the person. Call 911 if the person refuses water, vomits or loses consciousness.
- Heat stroke: Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation. Help is needed fast. Call 911 and move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the body. Wrap wet towels or sheets around the body. Use a water hose, if available, to cool the victim. Watch for signals of breathing problems. Keep the person lying down and continue to cool the body. If the victim refuses water or is vomiting or there are changes in the level of consciousness, do not give anything to eat or drink.
The Red Cross offers an app, “Emergency,” designed to help keep people safe with real-time alerts, open Red Cross shelter locations and safety advice. The Red Cross “First Aid” app aims to provide instant access to information on handling the most common emergencies. Download the apps for free by searching for “American Red Cross” in an app store or at redcross.org/apps.
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