07/31/06 — Temperatures headed for 100

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Temperatures headed for 100

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on July 31, 2006 1:50 PM

Wayne County residents won't have to ask -- "hot enough for you?" -- this week.

With temperatures expected to reach 100 degrees and heat warnings expected, it will be plenty hot enough for anyone.

In a special weather statement released by the National Weather Service this morning, officials warned that conditions are becoming dangerous for people and livestock.

Heat indices are expected to reach 105 degrees by the middle of the week, the service said. In light of these predictions, the public is asked to check on the elderly frequently, drink plenty of water and stay inside or in a cool place unless it becomes necessary to do otherwise.

The statement also warns that in these extreme conditions, the air might become stagnant over the region, resulting in deteriorating air quality. People with health concerns, and those sensitive to poor air quality should be particularly cautious, officials said.

Anticipating soaring temperatures later this week, county officials and others are issuing reminders and precautions for dealing with the heat.

At agencies like WAGES, which serves children as well as the elderly, workers have been cautioned to stay inside during extreme temperatures.

June Monk, coordinator for the Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions programs, said most of the volunteer stations are air-conditioned. Those who work with programs like Head Start are encouraged not to go outside with the children.

"Most of them are going and staying inside in air-conditioned facilities," she said. "Once they get home, we're telling them to stay inside."

At Meals on Wheels, where volunteers visit homes every week to provide a hot meal, it can also be an opportunity to check on the clients and determine whether the house appears to be cooling sufficiently.

This is not the first heat wave for the season.

Brownie Doss, director of the Meals on Wheels program, said a couple of weeks ago there was a similar situation, and her office to sent around a flyer with suggestions on dealing with the heat.

"We told them to drink plenty of water, wear loose-fitting clothing. A lot of times these seniors don't realize they're getting hot, don't realize they're getting thirsty," she said. "We're also reminding volunteers again today to tell them."

Wayne Partnership for Children has also worked to broadcast safety precautions, said executive director Don Magoon. Its monthly newsletter, mailed out last week to child care facilities, teachers and parents, featured tips on dealing with elevated temperatures.

"Part of the Division of Child Development rules and regulations actually require time outside, but (caregivers) can choose how they do that," he said. "They may choose to go out early in the day instead of later in the day."

There are alternative ways to encourage children to work on motor skills and allow them to play without being directly in the heat, he said.

"We do like to see kids outside. We just have to be very careful," Magoon said. "Generally, if they do go outside, they'd be out less than an hour."

Wayne Memorial Hospital has not seen an influx of patients yet who have been affected by heat exhaustion or other related ailments, but that does not mean officials are not working on prevention.

Amy Cain, public relations director for Wayne Memorial Hospital, said efforts are being made to get the message out to the public -- a monthly insert in the newspaper and a regular broadcast on the local radio station are two ways pertinent information is distributed.

And while the standby of "drinking plenty of water" might seem too obvious, Ms. Cain said she recently heard an easy measurement people can use to gauge whether they are doing that.

"An emergency department nurse mentioned the other day that you need to be drinking enough water, Gatorade or something like that to go to the bathroom every hour," she said. "If you're not, you're not hydrated enough."

County workers also have policies in place to protect themselves from the summer heat. Buildings and Grounds Director Brant Brown said county groundskeepers work from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., which protects them from the hottest time of the day.

During their shift, groundskeepers are encouraged to drink plenty of water and take breaks in the shade when needed, Brown said.

Although everyone can be affected by the heat, Services on Aging Director Yvonne McLamb said senior citizens should take extra precautions during a heat wave.

Everyone who plans to be out in the heat for an extended period of time should wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes, Mrs. McLamb said. Fluids are also important to fight off the effects of the heat.

"Seniors need to drink a lot of fluids or as much as their medication allows," Mrs. McLamb said.

To ensure seniors stay cool throughout the summer, Mrs. McLamb said it is important for seniors to stay indoors where it is cool. If a person does not have an air-conditioning unit, Mrs. McLamb suggests that person go to a public building for relief from the heat, such as a mall or the Services on Aging building at 204 E. Walnut St.

About five fans are also available at the Services on Aging building for seniors who need to cool down this summer, Mrs. McLamb said.

Mike Hughes, a spokesman for Progress Energy, said the summer is the time of year when energy bills are the most expensive, because everyone wants to remain comfortable.

Since Progress Energy expects temperatures like this during the summer in the Carolinas, Hughes said he does not anticipate the energy company having a problem meeting customer demand.

"We plan for this kind of heat, but the demand will be high. It could set records," Hughes said.

To remain cool this summer, while saving money on energy bills, Hughes said residents should check, clean or replace their air conditioning filters monthly.

He added that the thermostat temperature should be set at 78 degrees, which is considered the highest comfortable setting.

Also, people should remember not to put a television set or anything else that produces heat near a thermostat because it could prevent the air-conditioning unit from properly cooling the house, Hughes said.

When resting in a room with the air conditioning on, Hughes said the person should turn on a fan. The fan will help circulate air throughout the room, making it feel several degrees cooler. As soon as the person leaves the room, he or she should turn the fan off to conserve energy.

While away at work, residents should also draw the shades or pull the drapes throughout the house to trap cool air in the home, Hughes said.

"To remain comfortable, it's going to cost more. But if you incorporate some of things, it can save more than just pennies on your energy bill," Hughes said.