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Local residents continue to battle extreme heat

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By Dave Taylor

Residents of numerous area communities experienced record high temperatures last Wednesday as the thermometer climbed above the century mark. Louisville television stations reported a record high mark of 102 degrees in the Falls City. Both bank clocks on Highland Avenue in Carrollton displayed 107 degrees at 6:10 p.m. on Aug. 4.

“The mesonet station had us at 91 on Tuesday and 99 on Wednesday with a heat index of 113.1,” Tim Hendrick, Carroll County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources, said.

Carroll County’s mesonet station became operational in May 2009. In meteorology, a mesonet is a network of automated weather stations designed to observe mesoscale meteorological phenomena.

The Kentucky Climate Center based at Western Kentucky University coordinates the Kentucky Mesonet project. The website www.kymesonet.org provides current conditions along with access to historical data for each of the sites located around the state.

The excessive heat prompted officials at the Three Rivers District Area Health Department to issue a heat alert through Thursday, Aug. 6, for Carroll, Gallatin, Owen and Pendleton counties, which are within the health department’s jurisdiction.

“Due to current or predicted weather conditions, vulnerable individuals may be at risk for heat-related illness,” the health department said in a statement issued by Three Rivers District Public Information Officer April Harris.

Individuals most at risk include the elderly, people who are homeless, and persons whose chronic illnesses decrease their ability to respond to heat stresses, the announcement said. These include persons with heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, recent stroke victims, persons with diarrhea and persons with mental illness.

Alcohol and medications such as antidepressants, diuretics, antihistamines and others increase the risk for heat-related illness as well, according to Harris. Persons employed outdoors in farming and construction job capacities are another group at risk for heat stress. Infants and small children are also at greater risk.

Carroll County Emergency Services Director Ed Webb said his department has responded to quite a few situations that are caused by the extreme weather.

“It’s nothing you wouldn’t expect with this kind of heat,” Webb said.

He noted that most of the calls are from the elderly, who are more inclined to be affected by the heat because they have existing medical conditions that can be ex-acerbated by hot conditions. Webb said most of the local industry are good about watching their people and keeping them hydrated.

“It is not often that I urge people to take action based on a heat wave,” Meteorologist Beau Dodson eesaid in an email distributed by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. “However, myself and others in the emergency community are asking for your assistance in making sure that all of our area residents reach out to their neighbors, shut ins, and others in order to make sure that we make it safely through the coming heat over the next few weeks.eeThis has been a long, hot summer. It will likely rank in the top five warmest summers in history.”

Dodson serves aseeMeteorology Advisor for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson said he was unaware of any major heat-related emergencies during last week’s alert.

“If there would have been anything major that happened I’m sure that I would have been told about it,” he said on Thursday. “I’ve looked at the extended forecast and it looks like temperatures in the high nineties every day next week.”

The Carroll County Senior Center, 110 Sixth Street, and the Carroll County Community Action Commission at 1302 Highland Ave., are available as cooling centers during times of excessive temperatures, Harris said in the news release. Hours at the Senior Center are 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for individuals age 60 and over. The Community Action Commission is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“I want to remind everybody that on these excessively hot days that the Community Action Agency and the Senior Citizens Center are available for people who need relief from the heat,” Tomlinson said. “They’re welcome to come here at the courthouse, too, if they need to cool off.”

The extreme heat also poses a risk to many plants.

Hendrick said plants transpire in hot weather, using their water resources to cool off, and become “water stressed.” This is apparent on plants that develop brown spots or those that have tips that curl or wilt.

To avoid such problems, Hendrick recomends “smart watering,” which means to avoid doing so during the heat of the day. The best times, he said, are early morning, late afternoon or late at night.

It is important to keep water off the leaves and to water down under plants to allow it to soak into the ground, he said. When he waters his plants, Hendrick said he uses the rain setting on his sprayer and waters to the point it is flooding out around the plant, then moves on to other areas. He does this three times to ensure the plants get plenty of water.

Plants need an inch of water a week, he said. That translates into a quart of water per square foot. “An inch of rain per acre is 10,000 gallons,” he said

Trees are also stressed by the heat and need water because of their biomass with the large amount of foliage they have, he said. Watering at the tree’s drip line — where water drips from the tree canopy — with a soaker hose for 12 hours once a week can supply a tree’s needs.

When temperatures rise above 94 degrees, Hendrick said plants use almost all of their water for transpiration, and little for photosynthesis. “I you provide water, everything should be good,” he said.

In the past two weeks in Carroll County, the most rainfall recorded totals .6 inches, and only .39 inches at the mesonet. That puts the area 1.5 inches behind during that short timeframe, he said.

Health department officials advise that during a heat alert, citizens are advised to take precautions to avoid heat stress and heat illness. Precautions include:

l Drink plenty of fluids, even if not thirsty.

l Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages.

l Decrease physical activity.

l Eat lightly.

l Dress in light-colored, lightweight, loose, cotton clothing.

l Make use of baths and showers to cool down.

l Close blinds or shades to keep sunlight and heat out of your home.

l Spend time in air-conditioned areas or in a cooler basement.

l Take advantage of public buildings that are air-conditioned, such as malls, libraries and movie theaters.

l Do not leave children or pets unattended in closed vehicles.

l Fans only work when they are bringing cool air from a cooler place into a warmer area. Fans blowing hot air directly onto your body can increase heat stress and hasten dehydration.

Health department officials encourage area residents to visit or call neighbors, friends or loved ones who fall into a high-risk group for heat-related illness to see how they are doing. Make sure they are aware of the heat alert and know what precautions to take. Invite them to visit an air-conditioned location with you. Officials say a neighbor’s concern and a moment of time may save a life.

“Also we don’t want to forget about outdoor pets,” Dodson said. “Animals also are impacted by the heat. Changing their water bowls several times a day and making sure they have shade is important.”

Hendrick also stressed that pets require adequate water, shade and air movement to be safe in times of extreme heat.