Hot and stormy
Here is the National Weather Service forecast:
Thursday: A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2 p.m. Some storms could be severe, with damaging winds. Partly cloudy, with a high near 91.
Thursday night: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms before 2 a.m. Partly cloudy, with a low around 71.
Today: Sunny, with a high near 96. Heat index values as high as 100.
Keeping your cool
Dr. Gary Kempler, an emergency physician with Northeast Georgia Medical Center, suggests these tips for keeping safe during hot, humid weather:
Avoidance is best; Limit your exposure to the heat.
Drink plenty of water.
Maintain a healthy intake of salt and potassium. Good potassium sources include sports drinks containing electrolytes — not energy drinks — bananas and orange juice.
Don’t ignore the warning signs of heat illnesses: heat cramps, nausea, dizziness. If you feel any of these symptoms, get cooled off and drink some water or sports drinks.
People who have signs of heat stroke, including an elevated body temperature or mental difficulties, need to be cooled down immediately and get medical treatment.
Like the Buster Poindexter song says, today you’re "feeling hot, hot, hot."
Summer is coming on like gangbusters this weekend. High temperatures are expected to hover near 100 today and Saturday, with lows in the upper 70s.
"It is a little bit early," said Rob Handel, a
meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "Certainly as we move into July and August, you’d expect more of this. This is our season’s first 100-degree temperatures or right around 100 degrees. The warm overnight hours also limit your ability to cool off, for those who don’t have air conditioning."
And like anything that comes upon us a bit too early, many folks won’t be ready for the heat and may tend to overdo it.
"The first event is typically the most dangerous because people haven’t gotten used to it over the summer," Handel said, warning that people should be cautious with outdoor activities this weekend.
That warning is echoed by Dr. Gary Kempler, an emergency physician with Northeast Georgia Medical Center.
"The best way to avoid heat illness is to protect yourself from being exposed to the heat," Kempler said.
Avoidance is especially important for those who are most susceptible to the heat.
"Heat illness for the most part is a disease of the very young and the very old," Kempler said. "The young who can’t take cover and the old who are less able to maintain constant body temps due to either medications or brain dysfunctions."
Senior citizens can pick up free electric fans at the Gainesville-Hall County Senior Life Center, said Nancy Simpson, senior programs coordinator. The center also is taking fan donations.
But anyone can be a victim of heat illness, Kempler said, especially if they’re not getting enough water, salt and potassium. Not being able to sweat — one way our bodies regulate internal temperature — also can cause heat illnesses to flare up.
"Interestingly enough, the moisture content we’re going to see the next week is a double whammy," he said, explaining that increased humidity hinders the body’s ability to sweat.
The humidity will add up to a heat index that could push 103 today, according to the National Weather Service forecast. Handel said North Georgia won’t see any break to the humidity for the next week. The heat is expected to ease off a bit by Sunday, as the subtropical high causing the temperature gauge to red line will be retreating back to the west, Handel said.
But for the next couple of days, fluids are key.
Kempler said it’s also important for those exerting themselves in the heat to recognize warning signs of the early stages of heat illnesses: cramps, illness or dizziness.
"You may feel lousy, but your body is still able to regulate its temperature," he said. The best advice is to take a break, get cooled down and drink water or a sports drink with electrolytes.
It’s vital to catch heat illness in the early stages, Kempler said, before it advances to heat stroke or even death. Symptoms of heat stroke include elevated body temperature and mental difficulties. Anyone showing those signs needs to be taken out of the heat and cooled down immediately, Kempler said, and receive immediate medical treatment.
Heat stroke can cause brain damage that can be permanent, "if you live through it," Kempler said.
Most people seem to have gotten the message about being careful in the heat. Area emergency room doctors typically see patients with only minor heat-related illnesses this time of year, but not a lot of heat stroke victims, Kempler said.