Wednesday July 20, 2011

BRATTLEBORO -- A massive heat wave that broke record temperatures in most of the Midwest is expected to hit the area in the next couple of days and officials are warning people to stay cool, avoid the heat and check in on neighbors.

By mid-week, the high pressure system which baked many states in the midwest could bring a heat index in the triple digits, according to Mike Pigott, senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.

"Humidity will really start to increase Wednesday evening and become atrocious by Thursday," Pigott said.

He said temperatures for Thursday and Friday could reach record highs, above 96 degrees, but because of the humidity it could feel like 102 degrees or more.

"It’ll feel like a sauna," Pigott said. "Like swimming through the air."

Relief from the heat won’t come until Monday or even Tuesday when temperatures could drop back into the lower 80s he said.

Brattleboro Fire Chief Mike Bucossi said with temperatures that high people need to avoid too much time in direct sunlight, especially during the hottest time of the day, from 11 a.m., to 3 p.m., when the sun is at its highest point in the sky.

"People should try to do errands and make appointments in the early morning hours or evening hours," Bucossi said.

He warned people to limit their physical activity outdoors, wear plenty of sunscreen, light clothing, sunglasses and urged people to be their own judge when it comes to whether they may be overheated.


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The National Weather Service stated that extreme heat is typically the biggest weather-related killer, causing 115 deaths each year in the United States.

Bucossi said people need to be aware of signs that they may be overheating, including large amounts of sweat around the brow, reddening skin and high body temperatures.

"Not sweating can be very serious," he said. "At the point when the body stops sweating it begins to shut down from overheating and needs medical attention right away."

Checking in with elderly neighbors as well as young children could help prevent any possible injury, he added.

"Don’t hesitate to call 911 if someone is in trouble," he said.

Pets, as well, should have plenty of water and not be left in vehicles unattended or outside in the heat, Bucossi added.

Bucossi also reminded people to practice safety in and around the water.

"It seems water-related accident numbers are way up," he said. Those numbers, he guessed could rapidly increase with the temperatures rising and people looking for ways to cool off.

On Saturday, a Connecticut man broke several bones and sustained injuries to his abdominal area after he fell 25 feet down a ledge at a swimming hole on the Rock River.

One of the best ways to avoid the heat is being indoors and officials said people should take advantage of the public libraries and air-conditioned buildings, such as grocery stores.

Bucossi said that if the heat becomes too much, cooling stations around town could be set up by town officials.

"People know their limits and need to stay within them," he said. "There’s no sense pushing it during this heat wave."

Paul Putnam, co-owner of Brown and Roberts Hardware in Brattleboro, said although his supply of air conditioning units are limited, they have a large stock of fans.

"Keeping the air moving around the room can make a big difference in the temperature and personal comfort," Putnam said.

Fans can vary in cost from $13 to $60 dollars, he said. Keeping shades drawn over windows to limit sun exposure can also lower room temperatures and cost between $6 and $30, Putnam said.

Youth sports are also expected to be affected by the heat, according to Wayne Wright, manager of the 13- to 15-year-old all-star baseball team.

"When we saw the heat coming we knew we had to keep practice as cool as possible for the kids," Wright said.

The team is scheduled to play for the state championship in Waterbury on Sunday and needs practice, but it’s important to not overexert the kids, he said.

"Parents have been great about bringing large coolers full of ice, water and sport drinks," Wright said. "We also have towels on hand for the kids to dip into the cold water and wrap around their necks when they’re not on the field.

Hydration is serious business and fluids need to be taken early and often by everyone, he added.

Josh Stilts can be reached at jstilts@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.