Heat advisory in effect

Published 3:29 pm Thursday, June 28, 2012

Staff, wire reports

Washington and Beaufort County are under a heat advisory until 8 p.m. Friday.

A heat advisory means that a period of hot temperatures is expected. The combination of hot temperatures and high humidity will combine to create a situation in which heat illnesses are possible. An excessive heat watch means that a prolonged period of hot temperatures is expected. The combination of hot temperatures and high humidity will combine to create a dangerous situation in which heat illnesses are possible.

Take extra precautions if you work or spend time outside. When possible reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or evening. Know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Wear light-weight and loose-fitting clothing when possible and drink plenty of water. To reduce risk during outdoor work, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends scheduling frequent rest breaks in shaded or air-conditioned environments. Anyone overcome by heat should be moved to a cool and shaded location. Heat stroke is an emergency — call 911.

Less than a year ago, parts of North Carolina went through five days of temperatures at or above 100 degrees. But who remembers July 20-24, 2011, now that we’re looking at the possibility of another five days of 100-degree temperatures in parts of the state?

“We’ve had a relatively mild spring,” said meteorologist Scott Sharp of the National Weather Service office in Raleigh. “It’s shocked a lot of people going to this. It was 81 degrees Tuesday so we’re going from relatively pleasant summer weather to oppressive heat in just 72 hours.”

The triple-digit temperatures will roll in Friday and are expected to dissipate by Wednesday. You can blame a strong area of high pressure that caused high temperatures over the Central Plains for the past week. It will make a home over the Tennessee Valley and Deep South on Friday, then move over the Southeast. Then it will head back west, Sharp said.

But for the next few days, maybe until the July 4 holiday, the heat is ours. And that’s worrying Shawn Scott, deputy executive vice president of the N.C. Medical Society, where employees for a contractor are scheduled to replace the cooling tower that’s the basis of the air-conditioning system.

The 30-employee society ordered the parts about four months ago and scheduled the work. They’re scheduled to shut down the air-conditioning system at noon Friday and will use portable units to keep the computer systems cool. As for the people, they’ll leave when they decide it’s too hot.

“Our employees will leave and leave these poor guys to do the work outside,” Scott said.

She’s talked with the contractor, who assures her that the employees are accustomed to the heat. And he’s booked for the rest of the summer. Still, all the work could be canceled if the contractor decides the heat makes it too dangerous.

“The safety of the employees is the main concern,” Scott said. “We’ll stop the work and do it some other time if we need to. … It’s the last weekend in June. We knew it would be hot. But we weren’t prepared for it to be so extreme. We may have to pull the plug.”

To avoid the worst of the heat, folks could flee to the Outer Banks, where a sea breeze will keep temperatures in the upper 80s to low 90s, or to the mountains, where the highs will be in the same range. Still, “it’s going to be hard to escape the heat no matter where you go,” Sharp said.

City chickens are a fairly new trend, so the Tour D’Coop Facebook page was filled with advice for new owners on how to keep their chickens cool. Cynthia Deis of Raleigh, who has owned chickens for 16 years, said it’s pretty simple: clean, fresh water, shade and lots of dirt.

Chickens keep cool by stretching their wings across the dirt and flattening heads and necks into the dirt and staying still, said Deis, who owns six chickens. “They do look dead, but they’re not,” she says. “They’re just cooling themselves off … if you come upon a chicken on a hot day, and you’re not expecting it, they do look like they’ve been deboned.”