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Heat alert: Georgians urged to use caution

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Members of the All American Exteriors roofing crew began work early Tuesday morning to stave off the impact of the searing heat they expected to encounter.

"They're going to be the ones that start the earliest, and then they work the latest because they're going to be the ones to take the longest breaks," said Pete Williams, operating member of the McDonough-based roofing company.

Roofers, landscapers and road construction workers are among those most likely to feel the first-hand effects of the extreme heat. State officials are warning them and others to take precautions as temperatures spike near 100 degrees.

Roofers on Tuesday were "dealing with the heat one sweat-drop at a time," said Williams.

He said roofers tend to take extended breaks during the warmest part of the day and work during cooler times. Williams said he encourages his employees to use their best judgment -- drink plenty of water and seek shade when necessary.

"The worst is the heat index and the humidity," Williams said. "In our line of work, it's something that you have to be smart about, and deal with. Be safe and stay hydrated."

Temperatures rose quickly into the 90s by midday Tuesday, climbing ever closer to the 103-degree record high set in 1980, according to the National Weather Service, which issued a heat advisory for Clayton and Henry counties.

Temperatures throughout the Southern Crescent are forecast to reach the upper 90s Wednesday, with projected heat indices near 106 degrees. Daily high temperatures are expected to dip into the lower 90s heading into the weekend.

As weather experts anticipate marginal chances of continued afternoon showers and thunderstorms this week to help cool air temperatures, state health officials are warning residents to take care now and for the remainder of what promises to be a warm summer.

"Everyone should take proper precautions to stay safe in this extreme heat by staying hydrated and wearing protective clothing," said Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extreme heat causes about 400 deaths across the nation each year," said Fitzgerald. "Children and the elderly are particularly at risk during such high temperatures, and should be monitored closely."

The Georgia Department of Public Health offered the following tips for residents to stay safe in extreme heat:

- Stay hydrated. When working outside, drink plenty of water even if you are not thirsty, and take rest breaks in the shade. Avoid alcoholic beverages or those containing caffeine as they cause dehydration.

- Stay cool indoors. The best way to beat the heat is to stay in an air-conditioned area. Finding a place to cool down, at least temporarily, can provide some relief and allow a person's body to recover from higher temperatures. If you do not have an air conditioner, go to a shopping mall or public building for a few hours.

- Avoid sun exposure. Reduce exposure to the sun, from 10 a.m., to 4 p.m., when ultraviolet rays are strongest, and keep physical activities to a minimum during that time.

- Use a buddy system. Check on your friends, family, and the elderly. Monitor elderly neighbors and relatives often to watch for signs of heat-related stress. The elderly population and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to suffer from extreme and prolonged exposure to heat.

Tuesday's afternoon heat spurred officials to deem the area's air quality as potentially unhealthy for some people, particularly children, those who are sensitive to ozone, and people with heart or lung disease. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources also issued a Code Orange Air Quality Alert for Atlanta.

AccuWeather.com reported the searing heat hovering over the southern Great Plains spilled eastward Tuesday into mid-Atlantic states. Cities from Oklahoma City, Okla., to Raleigh, N.C., experienced high temperatures that approached or exceeded 100 degrees by late Tuesday afternoon.

The oppressive heat and humidity are due in part to a large area of high pressure sitting over the middle part of the Mississippi Valley, according to Bill Deger, a meteorologist for AccuWeather.com.

Deger warned low temperatures in the mid-to-upper 70s in high density areas will make sleeping uncomfortable for those without air conditioners.

The Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) is urging residents be prepared for the hot weather and whatever may come from it.

GEMA Director Charley English warns that the warmer weather can bring severe storms, hurricanes, droughts and other heat-related hazards, which all pose a potential threat to health and safety.

English pointed to GEMA's Ready Georgia campaign as a tool state officials have used to help prepare the citizenry for potential disasters and emergency situations. Residents can find additional safety tips, and learn more about creating an emergency preparedness plan at www.ready.ga.gov.