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Dangerous heat lingers in Mon Valley

| Thursday, July 18, 2013, 1:01 a.m.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
Peggy Savadeck of Carroll Township, Charles E. Grooms of Mononghela and Betty Brooks also of Monongahela stay cool at the Monongahela Senior Center. Where they were going to have lunch and just to meet other seniors. On July,17, 2013.

The dangerous mix of rising temperatures and intensifying humidity is taking a toll on the Mon Valley.

The Monongahela Valley Hospital emergency department staff reported treating additional heat-related cases Wednesday – specifically for dehydration and heat exhaustion.

“We definitely had cases today where heat was an issue,” said Sherri Senich, an emergency department nursing coordinator at the Carroll Township hospital.

Senich suggested that people consume plenty of fluids and stay indoors.

“Any exertion outside can be unsafe when the heat index climbs this high,” she added.

The hospital's Facebook page offers these tips:

• Never leave children or pets in vehicles, where temperature can quickly reach 120 degrees.

• Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.

• Avoid extreme temperature changes.

• Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Dark colors absorb the sun's rays.

• Avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.

• Postpone outdoor activities.

• Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat, and take frequent breaks if doing so.

• Check on family, friends and neighbors who are without air conditioning and who spend much time alone; especially pay attention to those likely to be affected by the heat.

• Check frequently on animals to ensure they are not suffering from the heat. Make sure they have plenty of cool water.

• Those without air conditioning should seek relief from heat during the warmest part of the day in such places as schools, libraries, theaters and malls.

Senich said heat exhaustion can lead to sunburn, heat cramps and heat stroke.

“If someone is experiencing heat cramps in the legs or abdomen, get them to a cooler place, have them rest, lightly stretch the affected muscle and replenish their fluids with a half a glass – about 4 ounces – of cool water every 15 minutes,” Senich said.

Senich said signs of heat exhaustion are cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness and exhaustion.

She said that if a person experiences such symptoms, move the person to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing, and spray the person with water or apply cool, wet clothing or towels to the skin.

Fan the person, and if he or she is conscious, provide small amounts of cool water.

“Make sure the person drinks slowly,” Senich said. “Watch for changes in condition. If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 911.”

Senich said heat stroke is a life-threatening condition.

Signs include hot, red skin, which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting and high body temperature.

Senich recommended that after calling 911, move the person to a cooler place and quickly cool the person's body by immersing him or her up to the neck in cold water if possible. Otherwise, douse or spray the person with cold water, or cover the person with cold, wet towels or bags of ice.

On alert

Southwest Regional Police Chief John Hartman said his department answered no heat-related calls, adding, “it could happen.”

Hartman said he had enough concern about the heat index that he posted on the department's Facebook page tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service.

Among them, FEMA suggests staying on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not available.

Among the National Weather Service recommendations:

• Avoid protein-rich foods that increase heat production and increase water loss.

• Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.

• Avoid sunburn, which makes heat dissipation more difficult.

The Washington County Department of Public Safety will provide cooling stations at various senior centers through Thursday.

Locally, Riverside Place in Charleroi will be available 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Monongahela Senior Center, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Center in the Woods in California, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Bob Koblentz, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Moon Township, said the heat index is based on humidity plus heat.

“It's a feels-like temperature,” Koblentz said.

The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for Allegheny County because temperatures hit the low 90s with a heat index topping 100.

Excessive heat will continue through the start of the weekend. Thunderstorms are expected by Saturday, and that will lead to relatively cooler conditions.

“By Sunday, the area should experience good summer weather without humidity,” Koblentz said.

“Clearly, when we start getting into these temperatures, with the heat index, it can be dangerous for the elderly, those with medical conditions and even pets,” Hartman said.

“For all first responders, it's in the front of their minds. This heat is dangerous.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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