Chris Schulz Published

Staying Safe In Dangerous Heat

A bright yellow sun that dominates the top of the frame with several people standing at the bottom of the frame silhouetted behind a railing.Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Heat and humidity are combining across the state to create dangerous conditions outdoors. 

The heat index in some parts of West Virginia reached into the triple digits Thursday afternoon, with temperatures expected to go higher Friday and Saturday.

The heat index combines both air temperature and relative humidity into a single value that indicates the apparent temperature in degrees Fahrenheit, or how hot the weather will feel.

The West Virginia Emergency Management Division announced Wednesday that State and local agencies are on high alert to respond to any heat-related emergencies that may arise. 

Dr. Lee Smith, the physician director and county health officer for the Monongalia County Health Department, said prolonged exposure to these temperatures can cause complications ranging from muscle cramping and lightheadedness to heat stroke in extreme cases.

“You should try to avoid the heat,” he said. “Take a lesson from those countries that traditionally have a lot of heat. They have siesta, which is a way to get people out of the heat of the day. You can resume your activities later on in the evening.”

Smith said staying hydrated is an often overlooked necessity in hot conditions, not only with water but with electrolytes as well. He also recommended wearing loose-fitting, comfortable clothing. 

“It’s easy to do, (people) wait until they’re thirsty to drink. You really need to try and keep well hydrated, that keeps things moving through the body,” he said. “If you’re doing activities, if your job requires you to be out in the sun, you should be taking things with electrolytes in them because we don’t want you just hydrating with water. You need the potassium and the chlorides and the phosphorus and all that stuff to keep your muscles from cramping.”

High heat events are an important time to check in on elderly relatives and neighbors who, along with young children and individuals with pre-existing health conditions, are more susceptible to the heat.

“In the elderly it’s because many times they’re on medications that make them more susceptible and the young, their metabolism is somewhat different than an adult and they’re more susceptible to heat type of issues,” Smith said. “People need to be aware that they should never leave their pets, their animals or their children inside a car on these hot days because it will heat up hotter inside the car.”

An inphographic uses color coding to show the predicted heat indices for several cities in the Ohio Valley and West Virginia including Charleston, Clarksburg and Huntington.
The National Weather Service’s outlook for July 27 through July 29, 2023.