Heat hits harder

Northeast Mississippi is about to be beset by its hottest air of the summer, at least so far, over the next several days.
The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning, noting that “hot temperatures and high humidity will result in a prolonged and dangerous heat wave.”
Heat index readings – the combination of temperature and humidity that indicates how readily humans can disperse their body heat while outside – will reach 110 to 117 degrees.
“Essentially, we’re under a dome of high pressure,” said Danny Gant, a Weather Service forecaster in Memphis. “It acts as a suppressor and keeps cloud cover down, allowing most of the sun’s radiation to reach the ground.”
Actual daytime highs are expected to be 100 or above until Thursday. Even at night, outdoor activity can be stressful, with lows expected to stay in the 80s.
“This will result in extreme heat stress on those without air conditioning,” states the NWS warning. “Proper precautions for your safety should be taken to stay cool.”
People working outdoors should take extreme precautions – especially consuming enough fluids.
“Those people who work outside, they need to be urinating every hour,” said Dr. David Carney, an emergency-medicine physician at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union County. “In this type of climate, if they’re not urinating every hour, they’re not taking in enough fluids.”
Workers sitting in air-conditioned trucks may be fodder for jokes, but Carney said such respites are vital.
“Outdoor workers need to be taking 10- to 15-minute breaks every hour or hour-and-a-half, where they come in and cool down,” he said. “They need to be watching out for each other. If you get dehydrated, your kidneys shut down, and you can die.”
Residents who are elderly, ill or very young are also at special risk: An elderly Monroe County woman died Saturday from a heat stroke outside a relative’s house, and authorities believe medical complications may have contributed to her death.
Several area utilities – North East Mississippi in Oxford, and Tombigbee Electric Power Associations and Tupelo Water and Light in Tupelo – reported no heat-related power outages Monday despite the heavy demand on their systems.
TVA spokesman Mike Bradley said the agency has had no problem yet supplying power to the region, but they are closely monitoring the situation.
“The peak demand on the system today exceeded 30,000 megawatts, and we were able to meet that,” he said Monday. “It’s expected to approach 31,000 megawatts this week. We’ll implement a heightened awareness of system operations and be on alert to take precautionary measures if needed.”
The all-time peak demand on the TVA grid was 33,482 megawatts on Aug. 16, 2007.
Forecasters expect a “cold” front to destabilize the atmosphere late on Thursday, lowering daytime highs into the upper 90s by Friday and triggering some scattered showers.

Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Errol Castens / NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau