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EMSA heat alert is Oklahoma's earliest on record

It's hot in Oklahoma and getting hotter. But there's a silver lining in this heat wave that triggered the earliest heat alert ever issued by EMSA — a less likely chance of tornadoes.

BY SONYA COLBERG Published: June 3, 2010
Central Oklahoma is sweating out the earliest heat alert on record.

The season's first heat alert began Sunday after an ambulance raced an overheated metro-area mother and baby to a hospital, hitting the Emergency Medical Services Authority heat alert benchmark of at least five heat-related calls over 24 hours.

Until Sunday, the earliest alerts issued were on June 19, 2002, and June 23, 2009.

"You look at the forecast, and it's ominous,” EMSA spokeswoman Lara O'Leary said.

O'Leary said she just hopes temperatures and EMSA calls will drop enough to lift the alert before it drags on beyond the record longest alert of just over a week.

The temperatures are running about seven degrees hotter than normal for this time of year. The average high is 84 degrees, and the low should be 63 degrees, said Rick Smith, forecaster with the National Weather Service in Norman. But Wednesday's high was 92 degrees, and the low was 72 degrees.

The hot, dry weather pattern looks like it will be around for the next week, Smith said. But the heat index, or how hot it feels based on temperature and humidity, would have to reach about 105 degrees and the nighttime temperatures would have to be no lower than 75 or 80 degrees before the weather service would issue a weather alert.

"We haven't gotten to the point yet where we have even come close to the criteria for issuing a heat alert,” Smith said.

The EMSA heat alert seemed the furthest thing from roofer Johan Orzco's mind as he tossed pieces of old shingles in a bin in The Village area. The 21-year-old worked quickly in jeans and a black T-shirt with the sleeves pushed above his elbows.

"Every day is hot,” he said. "At maybe 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., the sun is low, and that's when it is good to be on the roof.”

He said he combats the heat by drinking four to six liters of water or energy drinks during the day.

"I don't care,” Orzco shot over his shoulder as he hurried back to work. "I like it.”

Heat hits kids hard
Adults who work outside get acclimatized to the heat. But young children especially can be at risk on hot days, said Dr. Mark Fergeson, a pediatrician with OU Health Sciences Center.

"The fact that it has been hotter earlier and especially combined with the humidity, we certainly see an increased risk,” Fergeson said. Know It: Severe Weather

Above-average temperatures

Average temperatures June 2-3: High 84

degrees, low 63 degrees.

Actual temperatures June 2: High 92 degrees, low 72 degrees.

Tips for keeping cool
Cleveland County Health Department Administrative Director Shari Kinney said heat precautions are advised for children and people with heart, lung or kidney problems, as well as people who work outdoors. To reduce the potential for heat-related illnesses, the Cleveland County Health Department offers these prevention tips:

• Drink more fluids, regardless of your activity level. Don't wait until you are thirsty to drink. If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.

• Don't drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar; these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

• Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to a shopping mall or public library. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.

• Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.

Sources: National Weather Service, Norman office;

Cleveland County Health Department


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