Heat parches Pamlico region

Published 9:25 pm Thursday, July 5, 2012

The sign outside First South Bank on Third Street showed 97 degrees, which was the high temperature Thursday. According to the National Weather Service, Beaufort County will continue to be under a heat-advisory warning from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. today with temperatures projected to reach the upper 90s with a heat index up to 109. (WDN Photo/Sara Cowell)

When it comes to grades, a 97, a 98 or a 100 is great news. When it comes to summer temperatures, those numbers aren’t so great.
Beaufort County and much of eastern North Carolina remains under a heat advisory today and is expected to remain so through the weekend, according to the National Weather Service. A heat advisory means that a period of hot temperatures is expected. The hot temperatures and high humidity combine to create a situation in which heat illnesses are possible. “A trough of low pressure inland and high pressure offshore will continue to produce a southwest flow of hot and humid air across North Carolina through the weekend. A slow moving front will settle over or near the area early to the middle of next week with the potential for a prolonged period of unsettled weather,” reads a NWS forecast. “The extreme heat combined with dew points in the 70s is producing dangerous heat index values of 105-110 degrees.”
The heat index, or the “apparent temperature,” is an accurate measure of how hot it really feels when the relative humidity is added to the actual air temperature.
The heat is taking its toll.
“In the last 10 days, we have seen an average of 5-7 patients per day in our emergency department with heat-related illnesses. Most of the cases are related to dehydration,” wrote Pam Shadle, manager of marketing, public relations and development at Vidant Beaufort Hospital, in an email Thursday.
“Based on what we can determine, only a handful of people have visited Vidant Health emergency departments for heat-related incidents over the last 10 days,” wrote Barbara Dunn, public-relations coordinator with Vidant Health’s headquarters in Greenville, in an email Thursday. “Fewer than 10 cases in which heat has been the primary diagnosis have been reported across the system over the last 10 days.”
NWS advisories warn people to take extra precautions if working or spending time outside. When possible, reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or evening. Know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing 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.
A cold front moving in late Monday is expected to bring some relief, with Monday’s high expected around 91 degrees.
Any thunderstorms with strong winds moving through the area this weekend could trigger another round of power outages because those winds could bring down already fallen tree limbs caught up in tree canopies.  Also, trees standing but weakened by Sunday’s storm could be vulnerable to breaking in strong wind gusts, according to NWS.
One barometer used to determine how a heat wave is affecting an area is sales of ice — blocks or bags — in that area. Convenience stores and grocery stores in the region report high sales of ice in the past week, but they attribute some of that sales increase to people left without power for their icemakers for several days because of Sunday’s storm system and others filling coolers with ice for Fourth of July picnics and excursions.
For the first time in more than a month, drought conditions have returned to North Carolina because of below-normal rainfall and extreme high temperatures, according to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
A technical advisory group of the N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council in early June announced that the state was drought-free for the first time in almost a year. Thursday’s federal drought map shows that in addition to the 17 counties experiencing a moderate drought, 35 others are abnormally dry because drought conditions could return without adequate rainfall. The drought map can be seen at www.ncdrought.org.
Beaufort County is not among the 52 counties experiencing either a moderate drought or abnormally dry conditions.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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