• Severe weather awareness: Temperatures extremes and wildfires

    By: Irene Sans

    Updated:

    Central Florida’s location is key to its experience with temperatures extremes, especially during the summer months and winter. Yes, it does freeze in Florida.

    High temperatures combined with humidity during the summer months can easily bring heat indexes to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, presenting a significant health risk. Although is rare in Florida, at times the heat index (how the temperatures feel) could reach 110 degrees, which increases dramatically the risk of life-threatening heat strokes.

    During a 10-year average (2005- 2014), nationwide, there were 124 fatalities due to extreme heat, surpassing tornado fatalities by 14. Just in 2014, there were 20 fatalities due to heat; 13 of the victims were male, and seven were female. Three of the females were under the age of 10, and the rest of the fatalities were over 50 years old.

    Source: NOAA
    Source: NOAA
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.


    Most cases of heat exposure cases occur in Florida occur during the summer months, and most go under-reported. Children, while doing outdoor activities, are often the most affected during the summer months. But any person, regardless of age, not taking the right precautions, could have a tragic end.

    Too often children, disabled adults, or pets are left in parked vehicles to die from hyperthermia. Hyperthermia occurs when the body absorbs more heat that it can handle. Temperatures inside a parked vehicle can quickly rise to dangerous levels for children, pets and even for adults. Children’s bodies warm at a faster rate than adults, making them especially more vulnerable to heat exposure.

    © 2019 Cox Media Group.


    Know what they mean:

    Excessive Heat Warning -- Take Action!
    Issued within 12 hours of the onset of extremely dangerous heat conditions. In Central Florida, this is issued when the maximum heat index temperatures are expected to reach 113 degrees F or higher.

    Excessive Heat Watches -- Be Prepared! Heat watches are issued when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 24 to 72 hours. A watch is used when the risk of a heat wave has increased, but its occurrence and timing is still uncertain.

    Heat Advisory—Take Action!
    A heat advisory is issued within 12 hours of the onset of extremely dangerous heat conditions. In Central Florida, this is issued when the maximum heat index temperatures is expected: (1) A heat index of 108 degrees F; (2) high temperatures of 98 degrees F for two or more consecutive days.

    Beat the heat tips:

    • Touch a child's safety seat and safety belt before using it to ensure it's not too hot before securing a child.
    • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down, even for just a minute.
    • Teach children not to play in, on, or around cars. They could accidentally trap themselves in a hot vehicle.
    • Always lock car doors and trunks -- even at home -- and keep keys out of children's reach.
    • Always make sure children have left the car when you reach your destination. Don't leave sleeping infants in the car, ever.
    • Drink water often.
    • Rest and cool down in the shade during breaks.
    • Gradually increase workload and allow more frequent breaks for new workers, or workers who have been away for a week or more.
    • Know symptoms, prevention and emergency response to prevent heat-related illness and death.
    • Check weather forecasts ahead of time to be better prepared.

    Source: Noheatstroke.org
    Source: Noheatstroke.org
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    Life-threatening cold -- yes, even in Florida:


    On a yearly basis, cold snaps invade the entire Florida Peninsula. Freezing temperatures can impact people and crops. During the record-setting winter of 2010, two people died in South Florida due to hypothermia. Also, carbon monoxide intoxication threatens lives as many people turn on heating devices in enclosed rooms, without proper ventilation, and are left without supervision. Cold snaps impact agriculture across the entire state, leading to loses of thousands of dollars, impacting the economy.

    Follow these tips when it gets dangerously cold:

    • Never leave a heating device on for extended periods of time, or unsupervised.
    • Never use grills indoors.
    • Avoids using candles.
    • Portable heaters should not be in tight spaces, or left on for a long time.
    • Check your heating equipment at least once a year.
    • Check on the elderly.
    • Protect pets and plants during significant cold snaps.
    • Dress in layers.



    Wildfires

    Wildfires are a common occurrence in Florida during spring months. Typically, during the dry season, when drier air filters in for a prolonged period of time, the sun angle is increasing, making the return of warm temperatures.
    Low levels of humidity and high winds propagate fires. The National Weather Service often issues a red flag warning when humidity levels fall below 35 percent, meaning the air is very dry.

    Florida's population continues to grow and to move to inland suburbs, which makes the wildfires even more dangerous, threatening more lives and potentially causing more damage.

    Preparing for wildfire season:

    • Ensure a cleared safety zone exists around your home or building, limiting the spreading of flames from wildfires.
    • Discard cigarettes, matches and combustible materials in a closed container.
    • Avoid outdoor burning if not trained properly, or under unsafe weather conditions.
    • Extinguish campfires properly; never leave them unattended.
    • Don't park vehicle in high grass where a hot catalytic converter or tailpipe can start a fire.

     

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