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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Prepare for Arizona’s Hot Summer

I moved to Arizona in the middle of the summer of 1996, during Monsoon season. I can still remember the first time I stepped out of the car outside of my uncle’s house in Phoenix, Heat waves rising off of the pavement. What did I get myself into, I wondered. I was a girl from the Pacific Northwest, where summer high temperatures ran about 75 to 80 degrees. Here it was a blazingly hot and humid 112 degrees.

I immediately entered my uncle’s house and did not come out again until early evening when dark storm clouds had rolled in and the wind picked up. As I sat on the back patio watching lightning dart across the sky, I once more wondered what I had gotten into.

The next day another storm rolled in with wind gusts hitting 60 mph. Power lines were toppled across the valley, knocking out our power. My Uncle and I spent the early part of the day sitting in the pool in the shade of a tree. As the day heated up, we packed ourselves into the car and headed to a restaurant with power for lunch. We then went to the movies, hoping our power would be restored by the time the movie was over.

My first summer in Arizona was one of the only times that I've had to deal with a power outage during the summer. A few years ago, when the Valley reached a record temperature of more than 120 degrees, my husband, daughter and I headed to the movie theater. It was even too hot to play in our pool that day.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in partnership with many local, county and state officials are running a HEAT campaign May 18 to  23 to remind people to Stay Cool, Stay Hydrated, and Stay Informed. HEAT stands for Hydrate, Environment/Weather, Awareness, Take Action.

Hydrate: I drink a lot of water. In the summer I drink even more water. During the hot months, I don’t go anywhere without one of my many canteen water bottles in tow. The Arizona Department of Health Services recommends people to drink at least two liters of water during the day. If outdoors, drink 1 – 2 liters for every hour you are outside. The National Weather Service HEAT site has more hydration tips and an app to find hydration stations.

Environment: It may be hard for some people to believe, but heat can kill. The NWS issues Excessive Heat Watches and Warnings during Arizona’s hot summer months. Know what they mean. Plan your days accordingly to limit time spent outdoors.

Awareness: Beat the heat by staying informed of extreme heat days and know how to act. Outdoor exercise is difficult for me during the hot Arizona summer. My face seems to trap heat, making me hotter, redder, sweatier, and very uncomfortable. I know to limit my outdoor exertions to early morning, or I take it inside.

Every one of us is susceptible to heat illness, so learn the signs: headache, dizziness, nausea, weakness, heavy sweating.

Take Action: Be heat smart during our hot summer months. Sign up for weather alerts. Learn first aid and know when to call 911 when dealing with heat illness.  Dress for the heat and wear sunscreen. Take regular breaks when you are outside, and stay cool.

Soon enough, the temperatures will drop back down and we will be able to enjoy the great outdoors all day long. Until then, I ride my bike at 6 in the morning and walk my dog late at night. My family plays in the pool under umbrellas, we go to the movies, the trampoline park, or roller skating.

I’m ready for the Arizona summer. Are you? Visit NWS’s website and the Arizona Heat Awareness page for more information on the campaign.  

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