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Last Summer Like Day

The sirens roar and that’s your sign.  Your life is in danger and you have to act now.  Without delay you run through your head the check list of safety procedures.  Grab the kids, get into the basement…  It all happens in minutes.  Tornado safety has been drilled into us since we’ve been young and it’s something we practice and hear about annually.  But what if I told you there’s an even bigger threat to life than a tornado, and you may not see the signs.

On average 60 deaths occur from tornadoes, but heat kills over 600 people every year.  As temperatures rise in the summer, stretches of days become so warm that the human body can’t handle it.  That’s when heat related illness and deaths begin to happen.  Unlike a tornado, in which can be seen, when temperatures are dangerously high many people go about life without paying attention.  This led to a deadly situation in Chicago during the summer of 1995.  Temperatures rose to over 100 during the day and cooled only to the 70s overnight.   In that kind of extreme heat people’s bodies did not have a chance to cool off and became overwhelmed.  The Cook County Coroner’s Office began to see an extreme number of deaths.  The graph below shows that over 700 extra people died through that 9 day stretch.  Studies have shown that many of these deaths had early warning signs and could have been prevented.

So how do you protect yourself from heat?  There are some easy, key signs to look out for and simple steps to ensure your body is able to cool the way it needs to in stretches of extreme heat.

Be on the lookout for signs of heat stress and illness.  The human body will give early signs of heat exhaustion.

  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness
  • Cold, pale or clammy skin
  • Fast and weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

During this time it’s especially important to reduce the body’s core temperature. 

  • Move to a cool location, like one with air conditioning 
  • Lie down
  • Loosen tight clothing and apply wet cloths
  • Drink fluids

If these early signs are not regulated, heat exhaustion can escalate to heat stroke.  At that time the individual is in extreme danger.

  • Temperature over 103°
  • Red, dry and hot skin
  • Rapid and strong pulse
  • Loss of consciousness

If any of these symptoms exist call 911 immediately.  Begin the above procedures but DO NOT drink fluids.

The National Weather Service will issue a heat watch or heat warning when temperatures become dangerous.  Just like with tornados or thunderstorms, a heat watch means we are watching for extreme heat conditions.  A heat warning means it is here.  The Storm Tracker 6 Weather Team will also broadcast these watches and warnings along with information you need to stay safe.

And as always, temperatures do not need to be in the 100s for tragedies from heat to happen.  Even with temperatures in the 70s, cars can quickly heat to over 120 degrees.  It is never safe to leave your pet or child in the car.  For a full list of tips go to kidsandcars.org.

With these simple tips and tools, you can make this summer safe and enjoyable.  If you have any additional questions please reach out to the Storm Tracker 6 Weather Team at weather@kaaltv.com.

-Storm tracker 6 Meteorologist Cindy Morgan