“Hot enough for you?” is rivalling “how are you doing?” as the most-uttered phrase among local residents as heat continues to scorch the area — but safety is the key word for emergency officials.
As for the question of “how hot is it?” Jonathan Creed at Mount Airy’s F.G. Doggett Water Plant had the answer Thursday morning when totaling the number of consecutive days that the mercury has hit 90 or better there.
“This will be the eighth day in a row starting with the 21st,” said the employee of the water plant, the city’s official weather-monitoring station, as the temp once again approached that mark.
And with the persistent heat has come warnings from public safety officials about the need to take precautions due to the health problems it can cause, an area where they’ve seen a rise recently.
“Most of it’s been dehydration, and people who already had existing illnesses,” Surry Emergency Services Director John Shelton said Thursday of calls run by the Surry EMS. He mentioned such existing conditions as asthma, heart ailments and a stroke history as those which can be heightened by hot weather.
“The majority of it,” he said of health issues encountered so far, has involved “just exposure to the heat, just trying to get their fluids replaced.”
So far this summer, no deaths have been attributed to the extreme heat and humidity.
“Not yet,” Shelton said. “Honestly, I’m surprised that it hasn’t (happened). Last year I know we had at least one death, and I surprised something like that hasn’t happened.”
The emergency services director said the risks obviously are greater among those working outside.
“One thing we always say at this time of year is do it during a cooler period, such as early in the morning or late at night,” Shelton said of an outside task.
“Heat exhaustion and heat stroke at this time of year can happen very easily.”
• With heat exhaustion, symptoms often include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse — a result of the body overheating, especially when high humidity is combined with strenuous activity. Faintness and dizziness also can occur, among other symptoms, with experts advising those who think they are experiencing heat exhaustion to stop all activity, rest, move to a cooler place and drink cool water or sports drinks.
• Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related injury, which can occur if one’s body temperature reaches 104 degrees or higher. It can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, headache, fainting and changes in mental status or behavior such as confusion, agitation or slurred speech, among others.
If heat stroke is suspected, experts advise dialing 911 and in the meantime immediately moving the person out of the heat and cooling him or her by whatever means available. This can include a tub of cool water, being sprayed with a garden hose or using ice packs or cool wet towels on the neck, armpits and groin.
CPR should be initiated if the victim loses consciousness and shows no signs of circulation, such as breathing, coughing or movement.
Staying out of the heat during peak temperature periods is not an option for many, such as Mitchell Davis and Ryan Martin of Davis Construction.
They were working Thursday morning on a new building near the intersection of U.S. 601 and U.S. 52 which will accommodate Domino’s and other businesses.
“A lot of water,” is Davis’ answer for coping with the heat. The pair said they take frequent water breaks “wherever you can.”
“I drink about a gallon a day,” said Davis, who did offer one consolation to workers in this area who think they have it rough. The heat and humidity are even worse at work sites in Florida where he hails from, he said.
“In Florida, I drank two gallons.”
Only slight relief is store for Surry County, with the National Weather Service forecasting highs in the upper 80s over the next several days.
Shelton indicated that there is little difference in the dangers between the low 90s and high 80s, since the humidity remains and poses the risk of dehydration.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.