Temperatures getting back to normal

By Ed Brock

It's not the heat this summer, but the humidity that's making work a little harder for people like Ray Pangilla.

"It's like working in the Amazon rainforest," said Pangilla, a field engineer with The Facility Group construction company that is building Clayton County's new police headquarters building.

But Pangilla and everybody else who must venture outside this summer are getting a break from the heat that has been the norm for the past two summers.

"This year doesn't even compare to last year. All the rain has been helping us out," said Matt Sena, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City. "We've only hit 90 degrees one time this year."

Actually, that's a sign that things are getting back to normal as the drought that has affected the Atlanta area for so long made the last two summers abnormally hot. Last year the average high temperature during July was 89.5 degrees and the average low was 71.3, Sena said. This year the average high has been 85.7 and the average low is 70.2.

And the trend is expected to continue.

"We're in a much more normal pattern for Georgia with the thunderstorms and showers popping up in the afternoon," Sena said.

The number of serious heat-related illnesses coming into the emergency room at Southern Regional Medical Center is down this year as well.

"I can't think of a heat stroke that I took care of this year," said Jay Connelly, the ER manager.

Heat stroke isn't the most common health problem created by the heat, said Dr. William Watkins, medical director of the Southern Regional Medical Center Emergency Department.

"The number one thing (in causing heat stroke) is the ambient temperature and if that's down we're in the clear," Watkins said. "A lot more people might get heat exhaustion."

One sign of dehydration is when a person is not sweating when they should be sweating and when they become light-headed and confused.

While people with outside jobs are subjected to the heat more, Watkins said they're also usually more circumspect with their precautions against the heat such as keeping up their fluid level. The best way to do that, Connelly said, is with water, not sports drinks.

"We have water coolers everywhere," said John Williams, a foreman at the police headquarters site.

The heat may not be too bad yet, but that may change, Williams and Pangilla's colleague Gene Bryant said. Bryant also works on the roof of the building where temperatures get even higher.

"It's starting to get to the point where you hate being out here for 10 hours," Bryant said.