Chattanooga braces for a scorching weekend; state set to break temperature records (with video)

Chattanooga braces for a scorching weekend; state set to break temperature records (with video)

June 28th, 2012 by Steve Hardy in News

Delores Smith loads a donated fan for her mother outside the Salvation Army Social Services building Wednesday. Temperatures are expected to reach record levels by the weekend.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

Heat-related deaths in Tennessee

Year // Total // July-September

2006 // 9 // 4

2007 // 10 // 8

2008 // 3 // 2

2009 // 11 // 4

2010 // 22 // 16

Source: Tennessee Department of Health

AVOID OVERHEATING

• Medication, such as blood pressure drugs, can increase susceptibility to dehydration.

• By the time you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated.

• Wear a hat and light-colored clothes that wick moisture from the body.

• If you see someone overheating, give the person water and cool his core body temperature with an ice bath.

• If someone stops sweating or has very dark urine, call a doctor.

Source: Dr. Bill Smith, UTC-Erlanger primary care physician

ALL-TIME HIGH TEMPERATURES

Chattanooga: 106 degrees; July 28, 1952

Knoxville: 104 degrees; July 12, 1930

Nashville: 107 degrees; July 27-28, 1952

Atlanta: 105 degrees; July 13 and 17, 1980

Huntsville, Ala.: 111 degrees; July 29, 1930

Source: National Weather Service

Chattanooga records and forecast

Daily // record highs // Year // This week's forecasted highs

June 28: 104 degrees // 1952 // 96 degrees

June 29: 102 degrees // 1926 // 101 degrees

June 30: 103 degrees // 1952 // 102 degrees

July 1: 101 degrees // 1954 // 102 degrees

Source: National Weather Service

POLL: Will the heat affect your weekend plans?

Tents are going up near the U.S. Highway 27 construction site, the Community Kitchen is handing out water by the fistful and the Salvation Army's wait list for fans is 200 people long as the area prepares for a week that could break several Chattanooga heat records.

The city's all-time high was set at 106 degrees in 1952, according to National Weather Service records. But the service, as well as WRCB-TV Channel 3 Chief Meteorologist Paul Barys, have forecast temperatures in excess of 100 degrees every day starting on Friday and lasting throughout the weekend.

Local groups are scrambling to take care of those most susceptible in the Chattanooga area, such as construction workers, low-income families and the homeless community.

"We're going through water bottles like crazy," said Community Kitchen Director Charlie Hughes, who added that the site sees up to 250 people every day. The biggest difference is in the number of people who come during nonmeal times just trying to beat the heat.

"The day center ... is just packed," he noted.

Hughes said that, though the Community Kitchen has opened in the past during times of extreme cold, officials have not yet decided to allow people to spend the night during very hot nights.

Across town, the Salvation Army is working to keep low-income households cool by providing box fans for families and helping pay the utility bills for people who often can't afford to keep their air conditioning on, according to director of social services Sandra Leavell.

The Salvation Army already has given away 75 fans to people in need, with hundreds on the waiting list. She said that recent heat ushered in a big demand and expects more to apply as temperatures climb.

"We may have a lot of folks hollering come next week," Leavell predicted.

The center also operates a free pool that sees scores of visitors, mostly kids, each day, said Stephen Dark of the Salvation Army.

Upcoming temperatures are forecast to reach 102 degrees according to weather experts and may climb higher, which will flirt with if not outright top records that have stood for as long as 86 years. The heat is the result of a perfect storm of dry air, no cloud cover and high pressure, said Kate Guillet with the Nation Weather Service's Morristown, Tenn., office.

Parkridge Medical Center officials have urged locals to take precautions such as staying indoors during the middle of the day and wearing hats and light, breathable clothing.

Over half the population is also at risk of pollution illness, according to a Wednesday news release from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau, who have declared a Code Orange watch for today because of high levels of ozone.

The warning cautions the elderly, active people and those with respiratory conditions to limit their time outside and urges others to keep pollution down by conserving energy and driving less.

But pollution and high heat won't delay government construction, according to Department of Transportation officials. Crews are still working 12-hour shifts, according to TDOT spokeswoman Deanna Lambert, though workers, such as those on improvements to U.S. 27, are trying to complete their most strenuous work early in the day.

"We are definitely taking extra precautions," noted Brian Worth, a project engineer with Wright Brothers Construction Inc., who are working on the highway.

He said that foremen start each day by reminding workers to stay hydrated and keep an eye on overheated, cramped co-workers. They also stress the importance of drinking water over soda or other beverages and to drink before employees get thirsty to stay healthy. Additionally, tents have been springing up at work sites specifically to combat the sun.

"It's gotten warm a little early this year," Worth said. "We're not really excited for the rest of the summer."

Staff writer Kevin Hardy contributed to this report.