Killer Heat Wave Marches East

Killer Heat Wave Marches East

This year's killer heat wave has already claimed 22 lives, and it's heading towards the nation's population centers in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and New York. Temperatures are expected to soar past 100 degrees, with humidity conspiring to create a heat index of 115 degrees or higher in some areas.
At least two of the heat wave's victims were elderly people who had air conditioning units available to them. But they did not turn on the AC, because they were concerned about the electricity bills. These deaths were as preventable as they are heartbreaking.
If you live in the path of the heat wave and have elderly neighbors, or if you have elderly relatives in the northeast, please reach out to them. Offer to help with the increased cost of electricity for running the AC. Maybe if friends or family had contacted the woman in St. Louis or the man in Kansas who died and offered to help out with the electricity bill, they would still be alive today.
Most areas also offer designated "cooling stations." In some cities, these are mobile air conditioned trucks. (During the killer heat wave of 2009, New York City hired a fleet of refrigerated meat trucks to help cool its residents.) Senior centers, libraries, schools, and other community centers are often also air conditioned and available during the summer months. Once again, the elderly are most vulnerable in this respect, as they are least mobile. The offer of a ride to and from an air conditioned mall could literally be a life-saver.
It's easy to dismiss a bout of hot weather as something that has to be endured, if not a trial (or ritual!) of summer. But in 1995 a mass of hot air settled over Chicago causing a heat wave that lasted three days, and killed over 700 residents.
Pets are also vulnerable during heat waves. If you have to leave pets at home, be sure to set your air conditioning to no higher than 85 degrees. This ensures that your pets may still be a little warmer than they would like, but not lethally hot. Dogs and cats do not dissipate body heat very efficiently, and they can easily suffer heat stroke at temperatures of 95 degrees or higher, depending on the circumstance.
And learn to recognize the early warning signs of heat exhaustion and take action accordingly. Heavy sweating, feeling faint, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and headache are all signs that you should drink water and seek cooler temperatures ASAP.