Beating the heat

LEWISTOWN – Summer is here early.

The area’s mild spring weather came to an abrupt end Tuesday, when the outdoor temperature reached 90 degrees – four days before the official start of summer. That number is expected to break into low- to mid-80s by Thursday, but local officials said area residents should be familiar with warm-weather safety precautions.

Phil Lucas, Mifflin County public safety director, advised residents to take their time and be aware of weather forecasts before leaving the house.

“Especially in really hot weather, the possibility of severe weather with short notice is much higher,” he said.

Additionally, residents should be mindful of the heat index – the combination of temperature and humidity.

“The amount of humidity really makes a difference,” he said.

According to an advisory from the American Red Cross, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods.

Hot weather becomes more dangerous when it lasts for a significant period of time, said Allen Weaver, Juniata County emergency services director.

“Hydration is a big thing,” he said, encouraging residents to drink more water when the weather is warm.

People also should avoid caffeine and alcohol, Lucas said.

In excessive heat events – classified by the Red Cross as prolonged temperatures 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature for the region – residents are encouraged to stay indoors in air conditioning.

“If you don’t have air conditioning in your house and it gets too warm, find a place that has air conditioning,” Weaver urged.

Lucas recommended senior centers, community centers and libraries. He also suggested checking in with friends, family and neighbors to ensure their safety.

“If people have pre-existing conditions … those are people that you need to watch out for,” he said, adding that heat may compound illness.

If the Juniata Valley experiences long-lasting excessive heat this summer, cooling centers may be opened in both counties. Announcements would be made through local media outlets, including radio stations, television stations and newspapers, officials said.

An advisory from the Red Cross advises residents to watch for three stages of heat stress: cramps, exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat cramps are characterized by muscular pains and spasms, usually occurring in the legs or abdomen, the advisory states. Cramps are often an early sign that the body is having trouble with heat.

Cramps may progress to heat exhaustion, which usually involves the loss of body fluids through heavy sweating. Symptoms include cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness and exhaustion. Affected individuals should be moved to a cooler place, and cool, wet towels should be applied to the skin. If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, bystanders should call 9-1-1, the advisory states.

Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition, occurring when the body is unable to cool itself. Symptoms include hot, red skin; loss of consciousness; vomiting and high body temperature. The advisory states that someone should call 9-1-1 and move the person who is experiencing symptoms to a cooler place. The person’s body should be cooled quickly, using ice or cold packs wrapped in cloth on the wrists, ankles, groin, neck and armpits.

For more information, visit