Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

TOP STORY >>Climate Heatwave

Written by Leader staff

Central Arkansas Water, which provides water for 398,000 people in Lonoke, Pulaski and Saline counties, announced Tuesday that water usage surpassed 100 million gallons of water a day for the last six days—each day registered high temperatures over 100 degrees.

Chief executive officer Graham Rich said he did not anticipate water rationing this summer, but said consumption could surpass the system’s record of 121.7 million gallons in one day, set on Aug. 31, 2000.

The heat wave, caused by a big dome of high pressure forcing cooler and wetter air to the north and leaving Arkansas and surrounding states baking, has kept high temperatures in the 100s since Aug. 9, breaking two records and causing at least five heat-related deaths in the state.

On Sunday the temperature hit 106 degrees, breaking the 104-degree record set in 1980, the hottest summer in the state’s history.

Then Tuesday, the temperature climbed to 104 degrees, breaking the 1954 record of 103 degrees.
During the summer of 1980 there were 47 days where the temperature hit 100 degrees or more and in 1954, residents saw 46 triple-digit days.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures in July never made it above 95 degrees.

The forecast calls for sunny hot days with high temperatures hovering around 100 degrees for at least the next week.
Beebe

In Beebe, Mayor Mike Robertson said workers are beating the heat by keeping different hours.

“Basically, we’re starting early and getting off early,” the mayor said. “And if it gets so hot they can’t work and take off a couple of hours early, we’re not going to penalize them for it.”

Robertson said Milton McCullar, who heads the street department, also keeps workers supplied with Gatorade.


Lonoke

Lonoke County on Tuesday became the latest to proclaim a burn ban until further notice because of the hot dry conditions, according to County Judge Charlie Troutman. Pulaski and White counties have also put burn bans in place as have Cabot and Ward.

Troutman said hot, cloudless days had slowed work on county roads, but that most of his employees were in the air-conditioned cabs of trucks, graders or tractors pulling bush hogs.

As for the hot work of road resurfacing, it’s still a little early for that and the work is bid out to private contractors anyway, Troutman said.

In the city of Lonoke, Parks Director Roy Don Lewis said his employees are coming to work at 6 a.m., working until noon, then from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

He said the crews have PowerAde in water jugs to keep hydrated.

Lonoke city street, water and sewer supervisor Keith Whitworth said his leaf and grass-cutting crews will continue working from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. until the weather cools back down.

Both Lewis and Whitworth said there hadn’t been any major heat-related problems on their jobs.

Jerrel Maxwell, director of public works in Cabot, says he’s instructed his workers to not stay in the sun for extended periods and to make sure they get plenty of fluids supplied by the city.

“We try to do smaller jobs so they don’t feel like they’re pushed to get them done,” Maxwell said.

Right now, their most important tasks are in connection with changes in traffic patterns for the schools. Maxwell’s street department employees have re-striped some streets and set up barrels to direct traffic. They must be outside to paint stripes, but Maxwell says they have painted the barrels inside the city shop that is cooled by large fans.


Jacksonville

Although it was jokingly said they might show up to work naked, Jacksonville Public Works employees are doing all they can to do their work outside around town in the triple-digit temperatures.

“Some are coming in earlier now,” Tracy Keck, an engineering technician, said. “The normal workday begins at 7 a.m., but recently employees are starting earlier in the day – when it’s only 85 degrees instead of 104,” he said.

In general, employees are encouraged to drink plenty of liquids throughout the day, take breaks as often as possible and try to keep from getting too hot.

To help combat the heat, airmen at Little Rock Air Force Base work on a 15/45 work schedule, 15 minutes of labor in the heat and 45 minutes of rest, according to Sgt. Kati Garcia.

Water coolers and water backpacks are available for those who work on the flight lines or in other outside areas.
Heat as health risk

Despite the intense heat, an employee of North Cabot Family Medicine said Tuesday that none of the patients there have suffered from heat injuries. Instead, the clinic is seeing sprains and broken bones.

However, doctors at McAfee Medical Clinic in Beebe have diagnosed two cases of heat exhaustion.

Rebsamen Medical Center reports they have recently treated patients suffering from heat related illnesses.

According to Kristen James, marketing coordinator, the emergency room has seen a slight increase in the number of patients treated.

“They’ve had a few more than they normally do at this point in the summer,” James said. “Typically they are seeing people that are dizzy, weak, nauseous, vomiting and those that have stopped sweating,” she said.

Typical treatment includes prescribing medication for the vomiting, checking patient’s electrolyte levels and getting the patient rehydrated with water or through an IV.

The Arkansas Department of Health advises that while the elderly, people with health problems and very young children are the most vulnerable, extreme heat can affect anyone.

Even strong, healthy athletes can be stricken. Heat disorders are progressive and should be attended to immediately.
Heat cramps occur first from heat exposure and cause prolonged muscular pain as a result of muscle spasm due to severe salt depletion from heavy sweating. 

Treatment includes salt replacement, cooling down and gentle massage. Heat exhaustion is the most common illness caused by heat and often occurs while working outside or attending outside events in extremely hot, humid weather.

Symptoms include weakness and feeling faint, dizziness, nausea, headache and confusion. The person should be moved to a cooler place, and wet cloths applied for cooling down.  Fluid and salt should be replaced. 

Depending on the severity of the illness, hospitalization and intravenous fluid replacement may be necessary.  This condition precedes heat stroke, a life-threatening condition in which the victim’s temperature-control system ceases to work.

Sweating stops completely, and the body’s temperature can rise so high that the nervous system, the brain and other organs can be damaged permanently.  Death can occur if the body is not cooled quickly. 

The symptoms of heat stroke include sudden high fever, dry skin, delirium, convulsions and seizures.  Heat stroke is a medical emergency—call 911 and cool the person quickly. Ice, a cold bath, and wet sheets are recommended until medical help arrives. 


Care for pets

Triple-digit temperatures are tough on people, but extreme temperatures can also be tough on pets and require taking extra precautions for those furry friends.

Summerizing your pet by giving it plenty of shade and cool fresh water are just two tips for ensuring the summer is fun and safe for one’s dog or cat.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) offers tips for heat protection, parasites, car safety and pet sterilization that need extra attention during the summer months.

The number-one suggestion of both HSUS and the local animal shelters is to make sure that your pet has protection from heat and sun – a dog house doesn’t provide relief from heat – and plenty of fresh water when outdoors.

“Heat stroke can be fatal for pets as well as people,” Linda Sakiewicz, director of the Jacksonville Animal Shelter, said.
While owners like to take their pets with them when they go for a drive, owners are urged not to leave pets unattended in a parked car – even with the windows cracked.

“Don’t leave your animals in the car,” Sakiewicz said.

“In 10 minutes in 80-degree weather with the windows down can cause your animal’s temperature to be over 110 degrees and could cause heat stroke,” she said.

The normal body temperature of an animal should be 102 degrees.

If you see an animal in a parked car this summer, Sakiewicz suggests alerting the management of the shopping area or grocery store and if the owner doesn’t return promptly, call local animal control or the police.


Crops

The same sunny, hot and rainless weather that has kept the irrigation pumps running in Lonoke County has also kept soybean rust at bay, according to Jeff Welch, chief of the county extension service.

“Both the heat and the sunlight are staving off rust,” Welch said. The rust spores can stay alive about two hours during cloudless days. They need about 24 hours of moisture on the leaf surface to peg into the plant.

So farmers aren’t spraying rust fungicides now, unless they are spraying for other diseases. It would be a different combination of fungicides in that case.

“We want to hold off as long as we can.”

Producers are making a lot of rice he said, and would begin draining fields this week and next, “getting ready to dry down.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.