Tribune-Courier News Editor
The National Weather Service in Paducah sees no end in sight, for at least the next week, of hot, dry conditions.
Jim Packett, meteorologist for the NWS, said the region observed record heat Friday, with thermometers topping out at 108 degrees. Records could also be set Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. He expects temperatures to remain near or above 100 for the next week. Rain chances remain scarce.
“We have a huge area of high pressure over our area, with a downward motion that creates compression and heats the air,” Packett said.
Dry conditions exacerbate the heating. Packett said western Kentucky is now behind more than 14 inches of rainfall versus the annual average. The dry weather, combined with the ongoing heatwave means potential for more record high temperatures.
“The heat, combined with low relative humidities means the air wicks away more moisture from plants and people,” Packett said. “It’s a bad combination and people need to be careful. People should stay indoors, and if that’s not possible, take breaks indoors with some air conditioning. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of liquids.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises heat-related illnesses may be reflected in a rise in body temperature. Heat stroke is a condition where the body is unable to control its temperature. It is marked by a high body temperature, red, hot, dry skin and the inability to sweat, rapid pulse, a throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and loss of consciousness.
The CDC recommends shade and cooler environments for heat stroke victims. It also recommends cooling with water immersion, cool compresses or a shower, monitoring body temperature and notifying emergency responders.
The CDC describes heat exhaustion as a milder form of heat distress. Its symptoms include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, fatigue, dizziness, headache, nausea and fainting. For this condition, the CDC advises rest, hydrating with non-alcoholic and non-carbonated beverages, rest, bathing and seeking shelter in air conditioning. Lightweight clothing, sun screen and cover should be worn in excessive heat and sun.
Dr. Paul Jaco, veterinarian at Companion Animal Hospital in Benton, said pets are also endangered by hot weather. Older dogs, larger breeds and pets with short muzzles are at the highest risk.
“Last week, we saw a dog come in with an internal temperature of 107.3 degrees and it was only out a few minutes,” Jaco said.
Jaco said dogs in distress may be recognized by excessive panting, extended necks and respiratory distress. Pets with heat stroke need immediate treatment by a veterinarian. In the mean time, owners should provide water to drink and immersion in cool, but not frigid water. Ice water immersion can cause shock and blood vessel constriction which causes pets to retain heat.
Outdoor pets need shade, regular replacement of fresh water and if possible, moving air from a fan, Jaco said. Pets should never be left in a vehicle without air conditioning as heat rises extremely quickly in parked cars. Parasites like fleas, ticks, heartworms or intestinal worms can provide additional distress. Jaco recommends parasite treatment and prevention to maintain healthy pets during the summer. Good grooming of long-haired pets also reduces risk of heat related distress in pets.
With the heat comes worsening drought conditions. Governor Steve Beshear’s office said the Kentucky State Climatologist has elevated the drought to level 2.
According to a press release, all of the Jackson Purchase and Pennyrile counties have been declared in a level 2 drought.
A Level 2 drought indicates severe drought conditions have developed. Counties with this designation can expect severe impacts to water-sensitive businesses and agriculture. According to the press release, conditions include: depletion of water supplies in shallow wells, springs and ponds, increased incidences of wildfires, higher demands placed on water treatment facilities, and the imposition of water conservation advisories.
Marshall County has issued an outdoor burning ban in response to the fire risk. As of Friday, Judge-Executive Mike Miller had not banned fireworks like some neighboring counties. He said county fire departments would remain on standby for July 4 festivities. He advised residents to attend professional fireworks displays in lieu of personal fireworks. If a person insisted on using fireworks, he admonished extreme care be taken to detonate them safely.