With no apparent relief to the heat wave of 2012 that has prompted heat advisories, many are trying to make the best of the scorching summer, with a high of 113 degrees reported in Shawnee Wednesday.
The forecasted high for Shawnee was 112 degrees, but it was one degree hotter than that at Shawnee Municipal Airport about 5 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. That temperature was a tie for the all-time Oklahoma City high temperature for Aug. 1.
By 7 p.m., the temperature in Shawnee was still 111 degrees and it remained in the triple digits into the late-night hours.
But it was hotter in some areas of the Tri-County area Wednesday. At Chandler’s Municipal Airport, the NWS thermometer read 115 degrees about 6:15 p.m.
The NWS expects temperatures today and Friday to be just as hot, but with some added wind that could also increase the risk for wildfires.
The summer heat is taking its tolls on area residents and some are seeking medical treatment for heat-related issues.
Carla Tollett, marketing director for St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital, said there were an average of seven people seeking treatment at the emergency room with heat-related issues over the past week. This places the number of heat-related cases at 12 for the summer, she said.
Crews from REACT Emergency Medical Service are responding, on average, to two to three heat-related calls each day, said Director Greg Reid.
“It’s dangerous to be out if you don’t have to be,” Reid said.
And while paramedics are ready to respond to help those with heat-related problems, prevention is the key, he said, and paramedics also have to take care of themselves in these high temperatures.
Reid said heat affects a person’s body by creating stress, which is why hydration is key. It takes a lot of extra work for a body to handle the temperatures anyway, in addition to physical activity they are doing.
“The more fluids, the better,” Reid said, and not getting behind on hydration.
With temperature readings he was seeing at 115 degrees in some places Wednesday, Reid said keeping in a cool environment is best, but for those who must be out, preparation is key.
Medics in some cases work shorter shifts, he said, and always carry plenty of water. In addition, keeping trucks maintained with air conditioning for crews, as well as the patients they transport, is a critical part of what they do.
Heat can affect everyone, Reid said, but older people and children are most susceptible, as well as those who take certain medications.
Those who have to work outdoors also are dealing with ways to handle the heat and should take extra precautions.
Shawnee Director of Operations James Bryce said the working hours for city parks crews are now earlier — 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. — to help them cope better with the heat.
Page 2 of 3 - “At least we’re able to work the main part of the day in slightly cooler weather,” Bryce said. “There’s no way someone could work until 5 p.m. with a weed wacker. That’d kill them.”
Bryce added that some departments are unable to change their hours.
“Cemeteries have to stay open until 5,” he said, although he added that cemetery employees work outside in the morning and stay inside during the afternoon.
He said the workers also know when to drink plenty of water, take frequent breaks, and get into the shade whenever possible.
District 1 Pottawatomie County Commissioner Melissa Dennis said county road and maintenance crews are dealing with the hot temperatures by taking numerous “cool-off” breaks and drinking lots of water.
“Water, water water — we take water and ice everywhere,” Dennis said, adding they encourage frequent breaks. “Sometimes you don’t realize you’re overheated until it’s too late.”
In addition to breaks, county crews undergo safety training relating to weather, she said, and no one works alone.
And while temperatures are already hot as is, in many cases, especially if they are working with asphalt, she said it can be 10 degrees hotter.
“I stress for them to take breaks — and more than average,” Dennis said, adding that those breaks should include shade or getting into air conditioning when possible.
This summer, county crews also have been working earlier shifts, coming in at 6:30 a.m.
As the summer heat intensified, the state remains under a heat advisory.
The NWS recommends everyone take extra precautions if they work or spend time outside and suggests everyone to reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or late evening. Officials also urge watching for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and to drink plenty of water.
The extreme heat also affect pets, so area veterinarians suggest residents remember to take care of them as well.
Dr. Natalie Keith from Shawnee’s Northside Veterinary Hospital, said heat affects pets differently.
“Dogs and cats pant to help keep their body temperature lower, but they need access to some important resources to stay cool,” she said, adding there are things that pet owners can do to help their pets beat the heat.
The first, she said, is shade, as sunlight can increase an animal’s body temperature drastically.
A breeze is another, she said, as air movement, such as one from a fan, can make it feel 20 degrees cooler.
Water is essential for animals, she said, since their bodies are made up of more than 70 percent water.
“Dehydration can become a huge issue, very quickly…provide plenty of fresh, cool water for your pet,” she said. For dogs, they may even enjoy a small plastic swimming pool. She also suggests limiting playtime in the heat of the day.
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