Janesville60.5°

Heat wave likely to last into weekend

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Catherine W. Idzerda
July 19, 2011
— How hot was it?

Hot enough to pick the library instead of the beach.


Hot enough to be grateful for window air conditioning units and a cooler on wheels.


Hot enough to give water bottles to rabbits, buckle the Interstate and get really really annoyed when somebody asks, “Hot enough for you?”


On Monday, temperatures reached 92 degrees with a heat index of 107 degrees. The heat index takes humidity into account and describes how hot it actually feels.


You’d be better off turning to your thesaurus to describe how it feels: scalding, scorching, searing, sizzling, smoking, steaming, stuffy, sultry, sweltering, torrid and tropical.


The National Weather Service in Sullivan has issued an excessive heat warning for southern Wisconsin through 9 p.m. Thursday. Daytime temperatures will remain in the 90s with heat indices between 100 and 110 degrees in the afternoon.


The Walworth County Sheriff’s Office said one lane of Interstate 43 was closed Monday after the road buckled just south of exit 29 near Elkhorn.


The heat also seemed to drive people away from pools and beaches.


Shelly Slapak, acting recreation director for the city of Janesville, said Rockport Pool was “quite busy” over the weekend.


“On Sunday they had 679 people, which is very good,” she said. “But today (Monday), we only had 186.”


That was at 4 p.m. The pool is open until 7 p.m. Mondays.


“Palmer and Riverside wading pools typically have a lot of people,” Slapak added. “They only had 101 on Sunday.”


People also usually stay at the wading pools for one to two hours, Slapak said. Monday, they were only staying about 30 minutes, she said.


“They were saying that it was just too muggy to be at the pool,” Slapak said.


The Hedberg Public Library appeared to be picking up some of the recreational slack. Mondays are typically busy days, said Angela Meadows, children’s department intern. Even so, business was up.


“We had an event on Monday and we had the highest number of participants we’ve had for this summer,” Meadows said.


Such events usually draw about 30 kids and adults. On Monday about 55 showed up.


The library will have a variety of programs for kids and their families throughout the week, and it’s “definitely the place to come,” Meadows said.


In Lake Geneva, staff at the public library can see Riviera Public Beach from the library’s windows.


“One of the staff members said that it didn’t look like there were very many people at the beach for such a hot day,” said Alisha Benson, library public services coordinator.


Library patrons, too, have been commenting on the need to get out of the elements, Benson said.


At St. Elizabeth Nursing Home in Janesville, staff members were watching residents closely.


“The problem is that some residents don’t realize they’re hot, said Mother Marie Julie Saegaert. “They don’t feel the heat as much.”


It’s especially important for the elderly to stay hydrated and cool, Saegaert said.


Residents don’t go out for walks or activities during such excessive heat.


Inside the front door, the sisters keep a wheeled cooler full of water for vendors, visitors and residents.


St. Elizabeth’s other residents, their pet rabbits, also get special treatment during the heat. The rabbits get frozen water bottles to keep cool or, in some cases, are brought inside.


For many years, the sisters’ convent—an old Victorian house attached to the nursing home—was without air conditioning. The sisters, who wear a full habit, just had to bear the summer swelter.


A few years ago, a donor left money to the convent for air conditioning. Central air turned out to be cost prohibitive, so window units were installed.


The sisters are eternally thankful for the donor’s thoughtfulness—especially this week.


“May God bless her heart,” Saegaert said.


What would be a record?

The National Weather Service is predicting record-setting temperatures this week.


Just how hot would it have to get to break a record? According to Gazette weather records, which date back to 1929, the record temperatures for this week were:


-- 102 degrees: July 18, 1942.


-- 104 degrees: July 19, 1946.


-- 104 degrees: July 20, 1930 and 1932.


-- 106 degrees: July 21, 1934.


-- 105 degrees: July 22, 1934.


How to deal with the heat

The National Weather Service in Sullivan has issued a severe heat warning until 9 p.m. Thursday. Excessive heat is especially dangerous for the elderly and people with chronic health conditions.


However, when it’s this hot, everyone needs to take precautions, emergency management officials say.


Heat safety basics include:


-- Drink plenty of water and eat lightly. Don’t wait for thirst; instead drink plenty of water throughout the day. Avoid alcohol or caffeine and stay away from hot, heavy meals.


-- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. Add a hat or umbrella to keep your head cool.


-- Don’t stop taking medication unless your doctor says you should. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for heat advice.


-- Never leave children, disabled persons or pets in a parked car, even briefly. Temperatures in a car become life threatening in minutes. On an 80-degree day, the temperature inside a car even with the windows cracked slightly can reach 100 degrees in less than 10 minutes.


-- Taking a cool shower or bath to cool down. It works faster than an air conditioner. Applying cold, wet rags to the neck, head and limbs also cools down the body quickly.


-- At home, cover windows to keep the sun from shining in. If you don’t have an air conditioner, open windows to let air circulate. When it’s hotter than 95 degrees, use fans to blow hot air out rather than in.


-- Slow down and limit physical activity. Plan outings or exertion for the early morning or after dark when temperatures are cooler.


-- Infants should drink breast milk or formula to get the right balance of water, salts and energy. You may supplement your infant’s fluids with an additional 4 to 8 ounces of water per day, but don’t dilute formula beyond what the instructions say, unless instructed by your doctor.


Symptoms and solutions for heat-related illness:


-- Heat Cramps: cramps or muscle spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs. Solution: Stop activity, cool down and drink clear juice or a sports drink.


-- Heat Exhaustion: heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea and fainting. Solution: Cool down and seek medical attention.


-- Heat Stroke: extremely high body temperature; red, hot and dry skin; rapid pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and unconsciousness. Solution: Call 911 and cool the victim with a shower or hose until help arrives.


Wisconsin Emergency Management has set up “cooling shelters” throughout the state.


In Rock County, the cooling shelter is New Life Assembly of God, 2416 N. Wright Road, Janesville. The shelter is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.


The next closest cooling shelters are at the Stoughton Public Library, 304 S. Fourth St., Stoughton, (608) 873-6281, and the Stoughton Senior Center, 248 W. Main St., Stoughton, (608) 873-8585.


—Information provided by Wisconsin Emergency Management



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