The unfortunate tradeoff for the sunny skies of an Iowa summer is the occasional scorching heat wave. Clinton, along with much of the Midwest, is currently enduring blistering temperatures that threaten much more than records. Without proper caution and vigilance, this sort of heat can threaten lives.
Protecting yourself from the heat should be a priority, according to Meteorologist John Haase with the National Weather Service.
“The best approach is to try and stay in an air-conditioned building if you can,” Haase said. “If you’re outside, limit your outdoor activities.”
Laura Thayer, a physician’s assistant in the Mercy Medical Center Emergency Room, agrees.
“It’s common sense stuff,” Thayer said. “Try to stay cool, be in air conditioning if at all possible, stay hydrated.”
She said to be wary of caffeinated beverages and alcoholic beverages. She warned that even though a soda may be refreshing, it’s a diuretic that could help dehydrate you.
Being aware of heat stroke and heat exhaustion is essential in this weather, according to Thayer. Nausea and light-headedness may be heat exhaustion, a health concern, but probably not life threatening. When confusion creeps in or a person suddenly stops sweating completely, heat stroke may have set in.
“(With heat exhaustion) usually you can just sit in the shade and rehydrate yourself,” Thayer said. “Heat stroke is a medical emergency. That involves an ER visit.”
Heat indices of up to 115 degrees have prompted the National Weather Service to issue an excessive heat warning through Thursday afternoon, though Haase warns the heat wave could last into the weekend.
Protection from the heat isn’t just a necessity for people. Dogs, cats and other animal companions are as susceptible to heat related illness as humans.
Kristi Shaw, Animal Control Officer for Clinton, said that it is a good idea to treat your pets the same way you’d treat your family members during the heat wave. Air conditioning if possible and ample hydration are the best ways to stave off heat stroke.
“Just like people, (pets) should be in air conditioning if they can be,” Shaw said.
Clinton law requires that pets be given fresh food and water twice a day. With high temperatures, Shaw said it is important to provide pets with fresh water three to four times a day, especially if the pet lives outside. Access to shade or shelter is essential.
State Climatologist Harry Hillaker said the heat is a result of a high-pressure system that found it’s way a little farther north than usual. The system, which usually settles over southern states, ascended to Kansas this year, causing temperatures more in tune with an Arizona summer to blanket Iowa
“Basically, (Iowa has) all the typical ingredients you need to have to get heat during the summer,” Hillaker said.
Hillaker said that the high pressure system will likely sit over Kansas for several days, eventually working its way east. Temperatures are made more unbearable by the seasonal humidity, which will likely linger.
“We’ll just be kind of stuck in the same general pattern,” for several days, Hillaker said.
But, according to Hillaker, though the current temperatures are higher than usual, this season is shaping up to be more of a standard Iowa summer than in the past few years. Extremely wet weather has helped keep summers on the cooler side, he said, as much of the suns energy is used up evaporating water. Frequent cloud cover also helped keep things milder.
“We really haven’t had a steady diet of weather in a long time,” Hillaker said.