Heat bakes Pamlico

Published 1:27 am Saturday, July 30, 2011

Shemik Strickland (black shirt, left), Bryant Beaulieu (white shirt) and Justin Hall (gray shirt, right) direct Aaron Beaulieu (driving) and help him to lead a boat into the water at the boat dock near Haven’s Gardens on Friday afternoon, in hopes that a boat ride would help them to cool off. (WDN Photo/Sara Cowell)

Extreme heat smothered Beaufort County on Friday as the temperature reached the 102-degree mark.

The scalding air was forecast to keep its grip on the area today with a high reaching 99 degrees.

“That’s not even including the heat index, either — that’s just the heat itself,” said Jeremy Schulz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport.

“The heat will probably continue at least until Sunday (when) it’ll drop back down into the low 90s,” Schulz related, adding highs in the low 90s were expected through most of next week.

Friday’s highs might have set new records in the east.

Established in 1952, the July 29 record high for New Bern was 100 degrees, the forecaster pointed out.

The record for Washington wasn’t immediately available.

The culprit for this relentless weather was a lingering high-pressure area, according to Schulz.

“You get high pressure in the middle of the dog days of summer with maybe a southwest wind, and it brings up really hot, humid moisture from the southwest,” Schulz commented. “It’s just the way the weather pattern’s set up.”

Beaufort County’s emergency-management department hadn’t received word of heat-related problems by early Friday afternoon.

“We’ve had no emergency calls that were heat stroke or directly heat-related,” said John Pack, emergency-management coordinator. “Now that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been getting calls from people that are having respiratory distress or a small increase in the number of cardiac patients. We have seen that fluctuate here in the heat time frame.”

Pack advised residents with more acute health problems to take precautions until the excessive warmth abates.

“Someone 65 or older needs to be careful when they’re outside working, and people need to do their exercise earlier or try to exercise inside,” he said.

Also, “People need to continue to keep an eye on their pets,” Pack cautioned, including livestock and household or any other kind of pets, all of which need fresh water daily.

By week’s end, the emergency department at Beaufort County Medical Center had treated eight or nine cases of heat exposure, said Dr. William Murphy, the department’s medical director.

“We have not seen a heat stroke at all,” Murphy said.

Murphy offered the following tips for coping with the heat:

  • Limit your exposure to the sun and stay well hydrated.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages such as tea or coffee.
  • Wear cotton clothing, which absorbs sweat and permits better airflow than synthetic fibers.
  • Wear protective coverings on your face and/or head.
  • If you must stay outside, have a “buddy system” with a friend who knows your whereabouts and can move you to shade if necessary.
  • Check on elderly people, particularly those who don’t have air-conditioning.
  • Limit your alcohol intake if you’re outdoors.