Hotter than blazes, dryer than dust, Heat wave necessitates precautions


Monday was a record-setting scorcher across the state and today may be just as hot in some locations as a heat wave and drought continue.

Little Rock’s temperature peaked at 111 degrees Monday afternoon, breaking the date’s previous high mark there of 108 set in 1986. Stuttgart topped out at 108, Monticello made it to 106, and Pine Bluff reached 104.

July’s hottest temperature on record is 112, also notched in 1986. The all-time mark for Little Rock is 114, registered on Aug. 3, 2011. Today’s forecast calls for 108 degrees in Little Rock , 104 in Pine Bluff and Stuttgart, and 102 in Monticello with temperatures staying at or above 100 through Saturday with little chance of precipitation.

Meanwhile, a burn ban continues in Jefferson County as the Arkansas Forestry Commission has determined the entire state is at an extreme risk for wildfires. The excessive heat, low afternoon humidity and gusty winds are magnifying the fire danger.

The recent heat has been mindful of a 1934 span during which Ozark established the state’s all-time record for consecutive 100-degree days with 54. The hottest days occurred on Aug. 8 and 9, with Lead Hill notching 116 degrees and Calico Rock and Mountain Home reaching 114. The highest temperature in the state’s history is 120, which occurred Aug. 10, 1936, in Ozark. Summer rainfall was much below normal in both 1934 and ‘36.

As the current heat wave continues, residents are encouraged to limit outdoor activities as much as possible again today. Those who must be outdoors are urged to drink plenty of water, take plenty of breaks, and stay out of direct sunlight.

The National Weather Service points out that excessive heat can cause heat-related illnesses if you’re not careful. Symptoms include:

• SUNBURN –Redness and pain. In severe cases swelling of skin, blisters, fever, headaches.

• HEAT CRAMPS – Painful spasms, usually in muscles of legs and abdomen. Heavy sweating.

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

• HEAT STROKE/SUNSTROKE – High body temperature (106 degrees or higher). Hot, dry skin. Rapid and strong pulse. Possible unconsciousness.

If you or someone else has a heat-related illness, here are some first-aid suggestions:

• SUNBURN – Ointments for mild cases if blisters do not break. If breaking occurs, apply dry sterile dressing. Serious, extensive cases should be seen by physician.

• HEAT CRAMPS – Firm pressure on cramping muscles, or gentle massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue use. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.

HEAT EXHAUSTION – Get victim out of sun. Lay victim down and loosen his or her clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move victim to air-conditioned room. Give sips of water as long as victim is alert.

• HEAT STROKE/SUNSTROKE – Move the victim to a cooler environment. Reduce body temperature with cold bath or sponging. Use extreme caution. Remove victim’s clothing, use fans and air conditioners. If temperature rises again, repeat process. Do not give fluids. This is a severe medical emergency. Summon emergency medical assistance or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.

If there’s a good side to this heat and drought, it may be that it’s apparently too dry for tornadoes to form. Nationwide, only 12 tornadoes have struck thus far during July, the lowest number ever for the month. Barring an unexpected storm surge before August debuts on Wednesday, the current month’s total will be dwarfed by the previous low of 73 in 2007.