Heat index rises above 100
SIKESTON -- It's one thing to endure a quick walk from an air conditioned environment to your car on a hot, humid day, but it's an entirely different story when you have to be out in the sweltering weather because it's your job.
"Most of our guys are pretty experienced working in the heat," noted Missouri Department of Transportation's Southeast District Safety Officer Joe Steward. "We start in spring to get workers used to the weather and being out there everyday gets their bodies used to the heat."
In addition, when MoDOT hires its new employees, they must attend a safety training session, which Steward facilitates. One of the topics covered is hot (and cold) weather, he said.
"We give them an outline of safety measures to take during hot weather and we also provide them with different flavors of Gatorade, wide-brimmed hats, sunscreen and sunglasses," Steward said.
On Monday, Missouri health officials issued a heat advisory as temperatures topped the 100-degree mark in much of the state.
Today the National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., predicts temperatures will reach a high of 94 degrees with a heat index value as high as 105. A 30 percent chance of rain is also possible this afternoon.
"This past Sunday (Aug. 17) was the hottest day of the year for the area," said meteorologist Dan Spaeth of the National Weather Service in Paducah on Wednesday. "It reached 97 degrees in Paducah, 96 degrees in Poplar Bluff and Cape Girardeau; and 100 degrees in Carbondale, Ill. Sunday had all the humidity you wanted with it and more. "
Also on Monday, the National Weather Service in Kansas City and Springfield issued heat advisories in the western and southwest parts of the state, where temperatures reached above 100 degrees, but the NWS in Paducah hasn't issued any heat advisories, Spaeth said.
The St. Louis area has seen most of the heat this summer, Spaeth said. July was near normal with highs in the upper 80s and lows in the upper 60s. Last month there were only 13 days above 90 degrees compared to the average for July is 19 days above 90 degrees, Spaeth said. Rain was two inches below normal average in July and it's also a little below average so far this month, he added.
"It's been drier than normal because of the cold fronts from Canada coming down which also makes it cooler," Spaeth explained.
Heat advisory or not, when it's hot, it's hot. If someone does have to be out in the heat, they need to take safety precautions, Steward said.
Five heat-related deaths have been reported in Missouri this year along with 125 heat-related illnesses, according to the state Department of Health and Senior Services. Last year, 24 Missourians died because of heat-related causes, and 12 of those involved people 65 years of age or older.
Signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, fatigue, nausea, headache, excess sweating, cold, pale, clammy skin and faintness. A rapid pulse, high body temperature, hot red, dry skin and unconsciousness are indicators of a heat stroke.
A veteran of Desert Storm and skin cancer victim, Steward said his experiences have come in handy since he was stationed in such hot weather when he was in the military.
"In conditions like we've been having, it's important to take more frequent breaks and to cool off," Steward advised. "I try to use my personal experience to make people be aware of the importance of keeping safe in the heat."
-- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose clothing
-- Cover as much of your body as possible
-- Wear a broad-brimmed hat in the sun
-- Wear sunscreen in the sun
-- Eat regular, well-balanced meals
-- Avoid hot or heavy food
-- Don't take salt tablets without a doctor's permission
-- Drink lots of fluids, avoiding alcohol or caffeine
-- Build up exposure to sun slowly
-- Try to avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
-- Be aware that water, concrete and sand reflect the sun and make it stronger.
Source: Missouri Department of Transportation