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Extreme Weather, Climate & Preparedness in the American Mind

April 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm By Roz Potter

From a study funded by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication;  Link  

Excerpts:

 In 2011, Americans experienced a record-breaking 14 weather and climate disasters that each caused$1 billion or more in damages, in total costing approximately $53 billion, along with incalculable loss of human life. 

These disasters included severe drought in Texas and the Great Plains, Hurricane Irene along the eastern seaboard, tornadoes in the Midwest, and massive floods in the Mississippi River Valley. 

In the period of January through March 2012, Americans also experienced record warm temperatures, with temperatures across the contiguous United States 6.0 degrees F above thelong-term average. In March alone, 15,292 warm temperature records were broken across the United States. 

In March 2012 we conducted a nationally representative survey and found that a large majority of  Americans say they personally experienced an extreme weather event or natural disaster in the past year.

Overall, 35 percent of all Americans report that they were personally harmed either a great deal or a moderate amount by one or more of these extreme weather events in the past year. Likewise, 37 percent report that someone they know personally was harmed either a great deal or a moderate amount by an extreme weather event or natural disaster in the past year

A majority of Americans also say the weather in the United States is getting worse and many report that extreme weather in their own local area has become more frequent and damaging. Further, large majorities believe that global warming made a number of recent extreme weather events worse. 

 Only about a third of Americans, however, have either a disaster emergency plan or an emergency supply kit in their homes. 

To read more -  

http://environment.yale.edu/climate/files/Extreme-Weather-Climate-Preparedness.pdf

Interactive extreme weather map

December 8, 2011 at 3:35 pm By Roz Potter

From the Natural Resources Defense Council:  Link

Click on the link for the interactive map. Excerpts from the text:

Extreme weather events and climate change

2011 has been a year of unparalleled extremes: 14 disastrous weather events in the US so far this year have resulted in over a billion dollars in property damage – an all-time record breaking number – and their estimated $53 billion price tag doesn’t include health costs.

As shown recently, in a first-of-its-kind study published in the journal Health Affairs1, when health-related costs of extreme events are calculated, the total tally increases substantially and will likely continue to climb due to climate change. 7 of the 2011 extreme events – a record-high number – are the type expected to worsen due to climate change.

Climate scientists are saying that these events may be part of a troubling trend influenced by climate change2. This trend has also been identified by the international reinsurance company MunichRe [PDF]; they concluded that from 1980 through 2011, the frequency of extreme events in the U.S. is rising.3

A newly-released analysis by international climate scientists (IPCC)4 concluded that climate change will amplify extreme heat, heavy precipitation, and the highest wind speeds of tropical storms.

We need to be prepared. Emergency planning must incorporate risks from climate change. For example, maps describing flooding zones need to account for increased risks caused by extreme rainfall and sea level rise resulting from climate change. While these plans are made at the local level, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) must also prioritize addressing and preparing for climate change by providing guidance and resources to state and local governments.

Protect your family from extreme weather:

  • Stay informed – subscribe to local emergency alerts and watch for updates. Make sure to have a battery powered radio or other device in the event you lose power.
  • Stay connected – check on relatives, friends and neighbors.
  • Plan ahead – have an evacuation plan and emergency supplies on hand. See the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), or the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) lists for what you need.

Check out our maps to find out how vulnerable your community may be to the effects of climate change.

3 million without power from Nor’easter storm, many thousands left in the dark and cold 11 days later

November 13, 2011 at 12:00 pm By Roz Potter

Reported in the  Preparedness Report, from Yale New Haven Center for Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response:  Link

Tens of thousands of Connecticut residents went to bed wondering whether they would awake Monday to find themselves among an unenviable fraternity: the small percentage of people entering their second week without power.

The electrical outages, the legacy of a storm that hammered the Northeast on Oct. 29 and 30, were largely an unpleasant memory by Sunday night for most of the 3 million who lost power at the height of the storm.

But in Connecticut (editor’s note: this is just one state out of several affected), as of November 9th, nearly 3,500 residents remained without electricity, eleven days after the storm. In New Jersey and Massachusetts, only a few hundred customers remained without power.

Many of those displaced by the incident remain at one of the 12 remaining shelters in Connecticut.

As severe weather events become more frequent, particularly in view of  larger scale threats such as a severe solar storm, or an act of cyberterrorism, it becomes ever more important to prepare for severe cold, and heat. See CDC reference on hypothermia here and the CDC page on health and safety concerns for all disasters here.

From USGS: Our Ever-Changing Earth – Science to Mitigate Risks of Change

October 13, 2011 at 12:19 pm By Roz Potter

As the climate changes, the conditions behind the unprecedented erosion of the 2009-2010 winter could become more common. Erosion assessments are helping coastal decison makers prepare for the potential damage of future storms. (Photo Credit: Jeff Hansen, USGS.)

USGS Link

Excerpts:

  • As a 5.8-magnitude earthquake near Mineral, Virginia, sent a jolt through 22 eastern States in August, many were surprised and frightened.
  • As roads, homes, and farmlands were swamped by flooding from melting snowpack and spring rains, and as more property, roads, and even century-old covered bridges were washed away by flooding brought on by hurricanes this summer, many were caught off guard by the record-breaking water levels.
  • As severe drought conditions in Texas caused die-offs of fish and wildlife and helped fuel widespread wildfires that forced residents to quickly gather family and escape to shelters, many were not prepared for the damages to their natural resources and homes.
  • As climate change alters the ranges of species (such as moose and beaver), the reliability of vegetation (such as salmonberries), and the predictability of weather in the Arctic, residents have become concerned about their safety, their sources of food, and their livelihoods.

Unexpected hazardous events and changes to the world around us can be devastating.

To read more, Link

World’s deadliest volcano on heightened eruption alert

September 20, 2011 at 10:16 pm By Roz Potter

From the Digital Journal, Link . Also see Geology.com,  Link for a discussion of the 1815 eruption – the largest in recorded history and the cause of a deadly lowering of global temperatures.

Excerpt:

Increased rumblings this month from Mount Tambora on Indonesia’s Sumbawa Island are forcing residents to take the mountain seriously, with authorities there raising the volcano alert to its second-highest level.

“On August 30, we recorded seven volcanic earthquakes and since Sept. 8 the frequency of the quakes rose substantially, to between 12 and 16 per day,” said Husnuddin, head of the West Nusa Tenggara Disaster Mitigation Agency, (BNPB), the Jakarta Globe reports. Mount Tambora has the distinction of having the world’s deadliest eruption which killed at least 71,000 people, with some estimates as high as 90,000. Between 11,000-12,000 were killed by the eruption itself while tens of thousands more died from the ensuing starvation and disease associated with volcanic fallout which created the “Year Without a Summer” in 1816, a summer which greatly impacted the Northern Hemisphere, including North America and Europe.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/311696#ixzz1YYpHX4QS

2011: A year of nature’s extremes for the U.S.

September 4, 2011 at 11:06 am By Roz Potter

From the Boston Globe online:  Link

Excerpts:

Unprecedented triple-digit heat and devastating drought. Deadly tornadoes leveling towns. Massive rivers overflowing. A billion-dollar blizzard. And now, unusual hurricane-triggered flooding in Vermont.

If what is falling from the sky is not enough, the ground shook in places that normally seem stable: Colorado and the entire East Coast. On Friday, a strong quake triggered brief tsunami warnings in Alaska. Arizona and New Mexico have broken records for wildfires.

Total weather losses top $35 billion, and that is not counting Hurricane Irene, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. There have been more than 700 US disaster and weather deaths, most from the tornado outbreaks this spring.

Last year, the world seemed to go wild with natural disasters in the deadliest year in a generation. But 2010 was bad globally, and the United States was mostly spared.

This year, while there have been devastating events elsewhere, such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Australia’s flooding, and a drought in Africa, it is the United States’ turn to get smacked. Repeatedly.

The heat is on

July 22, 2011 at 11:21 pm By Roz Potter

From NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Link

Heat: A Major Killer

Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year.

On average, excessive heat claims more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined.

In the disastrous heat wave of 1980, more than 1,250 people died. In the heat wave of 1995 more than 700 deaths in the Chicago area were attributed to heat. In August 2003, a record heat wave in Europe claimed an estimated 50,000 lives.

The Hazards of Excessive Heat

When the body heats to quickly to cool itself safely, or when you lose much fluid or salt through dehydration or sweating, your body temperature rises and heat-related illness may develop.

Heat disorders share one common feature: the individual has been in the heat too long is exercised too much for his or her age and physical condition.

The severity of heat disorders increase with age. Conditions that cause heat cramps in a 17-year-old may result in heat exhaustion in someone 40, and heat stroke in a person over 60.

Sunburn, with its ultraviolet radiation burns, can significantly retard the skin’s ability to shed excess heat.

Acclimatization has to do with adjusting sweat-salt concentrations, among other things. The idea is to lose enough water to regulate body temperature, with the least possible chemical disturbance/salt depletion.

Children, Adults and Pets Enclosed in Parked Vehicles Are at Great Risk

Each year children die from hyperthermia as a result of being left in parked vehicles. Hyperthermia is an acute condition that occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it can dissipate.

Hyperthermia can occur even on a mild day. Studies have shown that the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rapidly rise to a dangerous level for children, adults and pets.

Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. The effects can be more severe on children because their bodies warm at a faster rate than adults.

Shown below is a time lapse photo of a thermometer reading in a car over a period of less than an hour. As the photograph shows, in just over 2 minutes the call went from a safe temperature to 94.3 degree F. These photos demonstrate just how quickly a vehicle can become a death trap for a child.

This   graph shows                hyperthermia deaths from 1998 through 2004

Courtesy of Golden Gate Weather Services. Use of this graph does not imply NWS endorsement of services provided by Golden Gate Weather Services.

Hyperthermia deaths aren’t confined to summer months. They also happen during the spring and fall. Below are some examples.

  • Honolulu, HI, March 07, 2007: A 3-year-old girl died when the father left her in a child seat for an 1.5 hours while he visited friends in a Makiki apartment building.  The outside temperature was only 81 degrees.
  • North Augusta, SC, April 2006: A mother left her 15 month old son  in a car. He was in a car for 9 hours while his mom went to work. She is now serving a 20-year prison sentence.
  • Denver, CO, August 2008: Two kids that died in an overheated car may have been on their own for more than 3 hours as their mother slept after working a night shift.  The kids died in a closed but unlocked car. Investigators believe the temperature in the car may have reached 123 degrees F.

Adults are in danger too. On July 12, 2001, a man died of heatstroke after falling asleep in his car with the windows rolled up in the parking lot of a supermarket in Hinds County, MS.

How Fast Can the Sun Heat A Car?

The atmosphere and the windows of a car are relatively “transparent” to the sun’s shortwave radiation (yellow in figure below) and are warmed little. This shortwave energy, however, does heat objects it strikes. For example, a dark dashboard or seat can easily reach temperatures in the range of 180 to more than 200 degrees F.

These objects (e.g., dashboard, steering wheel, childseat) heat the adjacent air by conduction and convection and also give off longwave radiation (red) which is very efficient at warming the air trapped inside a vehicle.

Objects Heated by the Sun Warm Vehicle’s Air

parked vehicle

CLICK HERE FOR ANIMATION (700K)
( Hi-Res ~ 2.5 mb.WMV file)
Individual Frames:
0 min, 10 min, 20 min, 30 min, 40 min, 50 min, 60 min
Animation Courtesy of General Motors and Golden Gate Weather Services. Use of this animation does not imply NWS endorsement of services provided by General Motors and Golden Gate Weather Services.

Heat Safety

Child Safety Tips

  • Make sure your child’s safety seat and safety belt buckles aren’t too hot before securing your child in a safety restraint system, especially when your car has been parked in the heat.
  • Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down.
  • Teach children not to play in, on or around cars.
  • Always lock car doors and trunks–even at home–and keep keys out of children’s reach.
  • Always make sure all children have left the car when you reach your destination. Don’t leave sleeping infants in the car ever!

Adult Heat Wave Safety Tips

  • Slow down. Reduce, eliminate or rescheduled strenuous activities until the Thermometer reads 110 degreescoolest time of the day. Children, senior and anyone with health problems should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
  • Dress for summer. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
  • Put less fuel on your inner fires. Foods, like meat and other proteins that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.
  • Drink plenty of water or other non-alcohol or decaffeinated fluids. Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty. Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease, are on fluid restrictive diets or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids. Do not drink alcoholic beverages and limited caffeinated beverages.
  • During excess heat period, spend more time in air-conditioned places. Air conditioning in homes and other buildings markedly reduces danger from the heat. If you cannot afford an air conditioner, go to a library, store or other location with air conditioning for part of the day.
  • Don’t get too much sun. Sunburn reduced your body’s ability to dissipate heat.
  • Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.

Heat Disorder Symptoms

SUNBURN: Redness and pain. In severe cases swelling of skin, blisters, fever, headaches. First Aid: Ointments for mild cases if blisters appear and do not break. If Example of a woman with severe sunburn on her back and armsbreaking occurs, apply dry sterile dressing. Serious, extensive cases should be seen by physician.

HEAT CRAMPS: Painful spasms usually in the muscles of legs and abdomen. Heavy sweating. First Aid: Firm pressure on cramping muscles or gentle massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water.

HEAT EXHAUSTION: Heavy sweating, weakness, skin cold, pale and clammy. Pulse thready. Normal temperature possible. Fainting and vomiting.

First Aid: Get victim out of sun. Once inside, the person should lay down and loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move victim to air conditioned room. Offer sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.

HEAT STROKE (or sunstroke): High body temperature (106° F or higher). Hot dry skin. Rapid and strong pulse. Possible unconsciousness.

First Aid: HEAT STROKE IS A SEVERE MEDICAL EMERGENCY. SUMMON EMERGENCY MEDICAL ASSISTANCE OR GET THE VICTIM TO A HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY. DELAY CAN BE FATAL. White waiting for emergency assistance, move the victim to a cooler environment Reduce body temperature with cold bath or sponging. Use extreme caution. Remove clothing, use fans and air conditioners. If temperature rises again, repeat process. Do not give fluids. Persons on salt restrictive diets should consult a physician before increasing their salt intake.

For more information contact your local American Red Cross Chapter. Ask to enroll in a first aid course.

Community Guidance: Preparing for and Responding to Excessive Heat Events

The Excessive Heat Events Guidebook was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2006, in collaboration with the National Weather Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and theDepartment of Homeland Security. This guidebook provides best practices for saving lives during heat waves in urban areas, and provides a menu of options that communities can use in developing their own mitigation plans. Beat the Heat is also available in Spanish/Espanol.

This page was produced as a cooperative effort of the National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross.

Extreme heat vulnerability – it’s a matter of life and death

July 20, 2011 at 10:55 am By Roz Potter

From the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Link

Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety

From 1979-2003, excessive heat exposure caused 8,015 deaths in the United States. During this period, more people in this country died from extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. In 2001, 300 deaths were caused by excessive heat exposure.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Elderly people (65 years and older), infants and children and people with chronic medical conditions are more prone to heat stress.
  • Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. During conditions of extreme heat, spend time in locations with air-conditioning such as shopping malls, public libraries, or public health sponsored heat-relief shelters in your area.
  • Get informed. Listen to local news and weather channels or contact your local public health department during extreme heat conditions for health and safety updates
  • Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages and increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level.

People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough. In such cases, a person’s body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.

Several factors affect the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions related to risk include age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use.

Who’s at greatest risk of heat-related deaths?

Heat-related deaths are preventable. People need to be aware of who is at greatest risk and what actions can be taken to prevent a heat-related illness or death.

The elderly, the very young, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at the very highest risk. However, even young and healthy individuals can succumb to heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.

Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. If a home is not air-conditioned, people can reduce their risk for heat-related illness by spending time in public facilities that are air-conditioned.

Summertime activity, whether on the playing field or the construction site, must be balanced with measures that aid the body’s cooling mechanisms and prevent heat-related illness. This pamphlet tells how you can prevent, recognize, and cope with heat-related health problems.

What Is Extreme Heat?

Conditions of extreme heat are defined as summertime temperatures that are substantially hotter and/or more humid than average for location at that time of year. Humid or muggy conditions, which add to the discomfort of high temperatures, occur when a “dome” of high atmospheric pressure traps hazy, damp air near the ground. Extremely dry and hot conditions can provoke dust storms and low visibility. Droughts occur when a long period passes without substantial rainfall. A heat wave combined with a drought is a very dangerous situation.

During Hot Weather

To protect your health when temperatures are extremely high, remember to keep cool and use common sense. The following tips are important:

Drink Plenty of Fluids

During hot weather you will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour.

Warning: 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.

Replace Salt and Minerals

Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body. These are necessary for your body and must be replaced. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. However, if you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.

Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen

Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids. It also causes pain and damages the skin. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) along with sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels) 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.

Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully

If you must be outdoors, try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. Try to rest often in shady areas so that your body’s thermostat will have a chance to recover.

Pace Yourself

If you are not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or at least into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.

Stay Cool Indoors

Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the 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. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area. 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. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.

Use a Buddy System

When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.

Monitor Those at High Risk

Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others.

  • Infants and young children are sensitive to the effects of high temperatures and rely on others to regulate their environments and provide adequate liquids.
  • People 65 years of age or older may not compensate for heat stress efficiently and are less likely to sense and respond to change in temperature.
  • People who are overweight may be prone to heat sickness because of their tendency to retain more body heat.
  • People who overexert during work or exercise may become dehydrated and susceptible to heat sickness.
  • People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation, may be affected by extreme heat.

Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

Adjust to the Environment

Be aware that any sudden change in temperature, such as an early summer heat wave, will be stressful to your body. You will have a greater tolerance for heat if you limit your physical activity until you become accustomed to the heat. If you travel to a hotter climate, allow several days to become acclimated before attempting any vigorous exercise, and work up to it gradually.

Do Not Leave Children in Cars

Even in cool temperatures, cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. Even with the windows cracked open, interior temperatures can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes. Anyone left inside is at risk for serious heat-related illnesses or even death. Children who are left unattended in parked cars are at greatest risk for heat stroke, and possibly death. When traveling with children, remember to do the following:

  • Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open.
  • To remind yourself that a child is in the car, keep a stuffed animal in the car seat. When the child is buckled in, place the stuffed animal in the front with the driver.
  • When leaving your car, check to be sure everyone is out of the car. Do not overlook any children who have fallen asleep in the car.

Use Common Sense

Remember to keep cool and use common sense:

  • Avoid hot foods and heavy meals—they add heat to your body.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and replace salts and minerals in your body. Do not take salt tablets unless under medical supervision.
  • Dress infants and children in cool, loose clothing and shade their heads and faces with hats or an umbrella.
  • Limit sun exposure during mid-day hours and in places of potential severe exposure such as beaches.
  • Do not leave infants, children, or pets in a parked car.
  • Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets, and leave the water in a shady area.

Hot Weather Health Emergencies

Even short periods of high temperatures can cause serious health problems. During hot weather health emergencies, keep informed by listening to local weather and news channels or contact local health departments for health and safety updates. Doing too much on a hot day, spending too much time in the sun or staying too long in an overheated place can cause heat-related illnesses. Know the symptoms of heat disorders and overexposure to the sun, and be ready to give first aid treatment.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

Recognizing Heat Stroke

Warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include the following:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, orally)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

What to Do

If you see any of these signs, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency. Have someone call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the victim. Do the following:

  • Get the victim to a shady area.
  • Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods you can. For example, immerse the victim in a tub of cool water; place the person in a cool shower; spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose; sponge the person with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
  • Monitor body temperature, and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102°F.
  • If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
  • Do not give the victim fluids to drink.
  • Get medical assistance as soon as possible.

Sometimes a victim’s muscles will begin to twitch uncontrollably as a result of heat stroke. If this happens, keep the victim from injuring himself, but do not place any object in the mouth and do not give fluids. If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the victim on his or her side.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. It is the body’s response to an excessive loss of the water and salt contained in sweat. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, people with high blood pressure, and people working or exercising in a hot environment.

Recognizing Heat Exhaustion

Warning signs of heat exhaustion include the following:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

The skin may be cool and moist. The victim’s pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow. If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke. Seek medical attention immediately if any of the following occurs:

  • Symptoms are severe
  • The victim has heart problems or high blood pressure

Otherwise, help the victim to cool off, and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour.

What to Do

Cooling measures that may be effective include the following:

  • Cool, nonalcoholic beverages
  • Rest
  • Cool shower, bath, or sponge bath
  • An air-conditioned environment
  • Lightweight clothing

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. This sweating depletes the body’s salt and moisture. The low salt level in the muscles may be the cause of heat cramps. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.

Recognizing Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms—usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs—that may occur in association with strenuous activity. If you have heart problems or are on a low-sodium diet, get medical attention for heat cramps.

What to Do

If medical attention is not necessary, take these steps:

  • Stop all activity, and sit quietly in a cool place.
  • Drink clear juice or a sports beverage.
  • Do not return to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps subside, because further exertion may lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Seek medical attention for heat cramps if they do not subside in 1 hour.

Sunburn

Sunburn should be avoided because it damages the skin. Although the discomfort is usually minor and healing often occurs in about a week, a more severe sunburn may require medical attention.

Recognizing Sunburn

Symptoms of sunburn are well known: the skin becomes red, painful, and abnormally warm after sun exposure.

What to Do

Consult a doctor if the sunburn affects an infant younger than 1 year of age or if these symptoms are present:

  • Fever
  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Severe pain

Also, remember these tips when treating sunburn:

  • Avoid repeated sun exposure.
  • Apply cold compresses or immerse the sunburned area in cool water.
  • Apply moisturizing lotion to affected areas. Do not use salve, butter, or ointment.
  • Do not break blisters.

Heat Rash

Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. It can occur at any age but is most common in young children.

Recognizing Heat Rash

Heat rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. It is more likely to occur on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases.

What to Do

The best treatment for heat rash is to provide a cooler, less humid environment. Keep the affected area dry. Dusting powder may be used to increase comfort.

Treating heat rash is simple and usually does not require medical assistance. Other heat-related problems can be much more severe.

This information provided by NCEH’s Health Studies Branch.

ilities (NCBDDD)

Is global warming (aka climate change) linked to severe weather?

May 24, 2011 at 6:51 pm By Roz Potter

Photo by Kurt Voigt. AP

From the Union of Concerned Scientists:  Link

As Earth warms, powerful storms are becoming the new normal

What is the relationship between global warming, climate, and weather?

Weather is what’s happening outside the door right now; today a thunderstorm is approaching. Climate, on the other hand, is the pattern of weather measured over a number of decades.

Over the past 30 years there has been a pattern of increasingly higher average temperatures for the whole world. In fact, the first decade of this century (2001–2010) was the hottest decade recorded since reliable records began in the late 1800s.

These rising temperatures—caused primarily by an increase of heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere created when we burn coal, oil, and gas to generate electricity, drive our cars, and fuel our businesses—are what we refer to as global warming.

One consequence of global warming is an increase in both ocean evaporation into the atmosphere, and the amount of water vapor the atmosphere can hold. High levels of water vapor in the atmosphere in turn create conditions more favorable for heavier precipitation in the form of intense rain and snow storms.

The United States is already experiencing more intense rain and snow storms.

As the Earth warms, the amount of rain or snow falling in the heaviest one percent of storms has risen nearly 20 percent on average in the United States—almost three times the rate of increase in total precipitation between 1958 and 2007.

In other words, the heaviest storms have very recently become even heavier.

The Northeast has seen a 67 percent increase in the amount of rain or snow falling in the heaviest storms.

As storms increase in intensity, flooding becomes a larger concern.

Flash floods, which pose the most immediate risks for people, bridges and roads, and buildings on floodplains, result in part from this shift toward more extreme precipitation in a warming world.

In 2008 two scientists, Sharon Ashley and Walker Ashley, of Northern Illinois University, analyzed flood fatalities between 1959 and 2005 in the mainland United States, excluding those from Hurricane Katrina.

Their research found that Texas had the largest number of fatalities from flash floods and river floods over the study period. When standardized for population, South Dakota, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Montana had the highest numbers of fatalities from flooding per 100,000 people. Those between the ages of 10 and 29 and those over 60 years old were disproportionately at risk.

Does global warming create more frequent and more intense tornadoes?

Tornadoes are relatively small, short-lived phenomena and scientists don’t have robust enough data to determine whether and how climate change may be affecting tornado frequency, intensity, or the geographic range where tornadoes are most likely to form.

Tornadoes often form when warm, moist air near the Earth’s surface rises and interacts with cooler and drier air higher in the atmosphere. This creates unstable conditions that are favorable for thunderstorms and sometimes tornadoes.

Unlike thunderstorms, tornadoes need a rotational source such as when warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico wafts over the southeast and strong Jetstream air aloft arrives from a westerly direction, as during the tragic string of tornadoes in April 2011.

While one study found that the number of tornadoes reported in the United States has increased by around 14 per year over the past 50 years, the trend may have more to do with how tornadoes are tracked and reported rather than how many are actually forming.

Similarly, the study found that severity ratings for tornadoes are usually based on the damage they cause to structures and may not have been consistently applied over the past fifty years.

What can be done to deal with severe weather?

This pattern of intense rain and snow storms and periods of drought is becoming the new normal in our everyday weather as levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere continue to rise.

If the emissions that cause global warming continue unabated, scientists expect the amount of rainfall during the heaviest precipitation events across country to increase more than 40 percent by the end of the century. Even if we dramatically curbed emissions, these downpours are still likely to increase, but by only a little more than 20 percent.

Regardless of what actions we take to cut emissions, we must adapt to the likelihood that severe storms are becoming ever more commonplace.

Efforts such as modifying local infrastructure to withstand floods, adjusting agricultural patterns to account for droughts, as well as establishing emergency planning in our homes, would be far less costly to implement when compared to the costs of responding to washed out bridges, deluged homes, or loss of life.

Clearly, the time has come to develop smart planning and engineering solutions to cope with storms of the future.

Editor’s note: Clearly, the time has come to prepare our families, homes, businesses, organizations and communities for multiple hazards.

California’s other “Big One”

January 18, 2011 at 2:21 am By Roz Potter

For those who might have missed the news reports, the USGS, FEMA and the California Emergency Management Agency convened a group of experts at U.C. Davis for two days last week to discuss a “Superstorm” that could be brewing. The last was in 1861-2. It continued for 45 days causing a 300 mile stretch of central California to resemble an enormous lake. Central California cities and towns including Sacramento were inundated. Such catastrophic storms occur every 100-200 years. They are called ARkStorms

Rising temperatures of the earth’s atmosphere makes such extreme weather events more likely. Such a storm could drop 10 feet of rain, flood 25% of the homes in California, cause massive landslides, disrupt sewer, water and waste systems, create toxic runoffs from industry, create ecologic damage and cause massive injuries, and loss of life with commensurate economic, social, agricultural and infrastructure damage. See NYT article Link and USGS news release Link, for more information.

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