Category: Extreme Heat

NOAA Archives

NOAA Archives

The July issue of Chicago Magazine serves as the inspiration for today’s post on killer heat. It features a recap, told in the words of residents, first responders, morgue workers and politicians of the July 1995 heatwave in the City of Chicago…twenty years ago next week. I recommend it.

Heat remains consistently the deadliest natural disaster in most years in the United States. The National Weather Service estimates that about 175 people die of heat related causes during an average year. Some years are much worse. The official total of dead attributed to the 1995 event in Chicago stands at 739. Officials argued about which deaths belonged in the count at the time and continue to do so today, but in any event the extent of the disaster cannot be denied.

On Wednesday, July 12, 1995, the temperature in Chicago reached 95-degrees. Certainly not uncommon. But on Thursday the 13th, the high was 104 at O’Hare Airport and 106 at the more urban Midway Airport. To compound the stress, the dewpoint at times exceeded 80-degrees which is rare. That would make the heat index between 120 and 130-degrees.


Chicago Tribune

By Friday, July 14, with a high of 102, paramedics and police officers knew there was a major problem. The number of fatalities rose to the point that the system was overwhelmed. Refrigerated trucks were brought to the morgue and mortuary students worked non-stop for two days assisting the morgue staff in handling the bodies of victims.



Chicago Tribune

The urban heat island effect was in full operation. Buildings and pavement held the heat at night, especially in the humid air so there was no relief. Many of the victims were elderly, young and those with existing medical issues. The situation was especially dire in poorer neighborhoods where residents either had no fans or air conditioners or were reluctant to use them given the cost of electricity. In addition, some victims were fearful for their safety and kept windows closed and locked. One of the city’s major hospitals lacked air conditioning in most of the building even in 1995! Surgical staffs were rotated frequently.

Since the effects of extreme heat tend to be cumulative, people continued to succumb for days after the heat began to subside on Saturday when the high was “only” 98.

heat_1The Chicago Heatwave of 1995 was a well-documented event, but similar heatwaves are common. Just this past week much of Western Europe had unusually high temperatures and in June perhaps as many as 1,500 people died of the heat in Pakistan. In May of 2015, 2,500 people died in a heatwave in India.


The National Weather Service has a number of safety tips, including:
Avoid the Heat. Stay indoors and in air conditioning as much as possible
Check on neighbors and the elderly.
Wear loose fitting clothing. Light colors reflect heat and sun.
Drink plenty of water and natural juices. The body loses water faster than it can absorb it. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
Avoid large meals. Eat smaller portions and more frequently.
NEVER leave children or pets in a vehicle even for a few minutes.

In addition, the weather service has a heatwave brochure available for download.

The Sleepy Hollow fire near the north-central Washington State city of Wenatchee started in the afternoon of June 28, 2015. The cause is unknown but natural causes have been ruled out, leaving intentional or accidental human-origin causes to blame. Unseasonably high temperatures, early drought conditions, and high fuel loads have elevated fire risk in the area much earlier in the summer than normal. The fire started outside the city, but wind drove it into residential areas of this city of 33,000. Hundreds of residents were evacuated. It has burned 2950 acres and has destroyed 29 primary residences. Embers blew into the commercial business district and subsequent fires destroyed four businesses; some were large agricultural processing or storage warehouses, raising concerns about hazardous material involvement. Those areas have been secured and hazardous materials contained.

The Chelan WA County Commissioners have issued an emergency declaration of the area as a high danger area, banning all outdoor burning and the use of fireworks. Some roads are restricted to local resident and emergency use only. The evacuation center has been moved from a high school to a church.  The BNSF rail line (a major NW transportation corridor) was closed but has been re-opened.

The number of firefighting personnel involved with this fire is 336; they are primarily volunteers. They have incurred a few injuries including heat exhaustion; no injuries to the public have been reported. With limited numbers of firefighters available, four days of firefighting already, and new fires reported in the area, firefighting personnel is stretched to the limit. With the Sleepy Hollow fire 47% contained as of the evening of June 30 evening, some are being re-deployed to other emerging fire situations.

The majority of efforts have switched from response to recovery, assisting those who have lost their homes and businesses. A local footwear business is offering free shoes to all fire victims. A fruit packing business offered its facilities to a competitor whose fruit packing facility was destroyed, thereby helping the business continue operating during fruit harvest season. These responses demonstrate that even during periods of drought and wildfires, human hearts can contain bottomless wellsprings of compassion and hope.

–Submitted by Susan Kerr, WA State EDEN Delegate


The Climate Prediction Center recently issued its 90-day outlook for temperature and precipitation for the U.S. It also updated the drought monitor tool.

off01_tempIn general the outlook calls for the next three months to feature above normal temperatures in the western third of the country and in the far southeastern states. Alaska and the Pacific Northwest will also be warmer than usual. Below normal temperatures are confined to much of Texas and areas of adjoining states. Most of the country will see an equal chance for above or below normal temperatures.


off01_prcpMuch of the nation may experience above normal precipitation from the southeast through the gulf states to the western plains and Rockies along with a good portion of Alaska. The above normal rainfall may bring drought relief to Texas and the four corners area. The Great Lakes states will see below normal precipitation and the potential of a developing drought. Lake levels and fire danger may be impacted.


drought 90The drought monitor shows little change in the near term for the hardest hit areas of the west, parts of Texas, and parts of the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Over the 90 day period of the outlook, the drought may ease in Texas and areas northwest of there. However, drought conditions may expand in the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, little or no relief is seen for California.  Just this week water use restrictions of from 8% to 36% were enacted for some municipalities.

Late breaking news.  Tornadoes in Germany!

There was a fairly broad outbreak of severe weather including tornadoes in Germany on Tuesday, May 5.  Here’s coverage from the British newspaper, The Guardian.

NOAA’s Climate Center has issued its 2015 Spring Outlook covering flood potential, precipitation, temperature and drought through the April-June period. The flood outlook is for mid-March to Mid-May.


NOAA Climate Center

According to the outlook, the greatest potential for Spring flooding is in the Northeast along with a portion of the lower Missouri River and other nearby rivers and streams in parts of southern Illinois, southwest Indiana and far northern Kentucky. The near term potential is being driven by snow melt. That melt will also influence the somewhat longer term in that soil moisture will be above average to far above average in those areas.

NOAA Climate Center

NOAA Climate Center

As for temperatures, much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation will experience near-normal temperatures with the West Coast being much above normal. Only portions of Texas and New Mexico are forecast to be below normal.

The outlook calls for above-normal precipitation in the Southeast and the Four-corners area with below normal precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The rest of the country will be near normal.

NOAA Climate Center

NOAA Climate Center

Drought conditions will continue or worsen in much of the western third of the country and drought may also spread from Minnesota into Wisconsin.  The drought will improve in eastern New Mexico and Oklahoma.  40% of California is already in an exceptional drought and the predicted hot temperatures and lack of precipitation will exacerbate that situation.

The precipitation and drought outlooks bode ill for the upcoming fire season.

As always, the long term outlook comes with a caveat that specific weather systems can always cause additional flooding and other impacts so readers should always stay alert.

Linus tells Sally about dog days of summer in today’s Peanuts comic strip. Those of us in the northern hemisphere are smack in the middle of the dog days since July and August are typically our hottest summer temperatures.

EDEN delegates identified several resources for staying safe in extreme heat. They range from advice for the elderly to advice about working outdoors. Delegates also identified resources that provide advice about livestock, pets and crops.

And just for fun…

Things to Do With Kids in a Heat Wave

Comic Weather Jokes

How do you stay safe and have fun in a heat wave?


Two Dogs Playing in the Waves


Posted on July 27th, 2012 in Drought, Extreme Heat, Fire (Wildfire), Hazards and Threats

As wildfires erupted, a heat wave settled in, and drought conditions expanded across the United States, Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) delegates collaborated to keep the EDEN Fire (Wildfire), Heat Wave—Extreme Heat, and Drought Topic Pages up-to-date with current conditions and collected resources. For example, Texas and Colorado resources, along with eXtension resources (in particular, the Wildfire and Water Conservation for Lawn and Landscape Communities of Practice), are highlighted on the Fire (Wildfire) page.

In addition to basic information about the types of drought and drought impacts, the Drought Topic Page includes links to USDA Disaster and Drought Assistance, hay hotlines, relevant blogs and Facebook pages, special tools, and twenty-two university drought sites.  EDEN activated its Response Notes system, providing a venue for states to update their status and helping USDA/NIFA stay on top of Extension activities.

EDEN hosted conference calls focusing on wildfire and drought in June and July, and a conference call in June introducing Next48. This weather dashboard aggregates weather maps and other disaster status maps customized by state. It is designed as a one-stop source for an immediate overview of current weather, forecasts, radar, flood status, drought monitor, flu information, and more.

The Fire (Wildfire) and Drought pages also connect to eXtension.  Building on the ongoing conversations and responding through eXtension to identified needs, EDEN collaborated with other eXtension CoPs to highlight wildfire resources and to build a public Drought Resources page. The page features resources (with links to Beef Cattle and Water Conservation for Lawn and Landscape CoP content and to external resources) for agricultural producers and homeowners alike. This page and the EDEN Drought Topic Page are works in progress as the drought continues.

Love is Like a Heat Wave

I don’t know how much Martha and the Vandellas really loved the guy in the 1963 hit song, Heat Wave, but I am almost certain they would not love these temps that we are seeing so far this summer.

So far, Summer 2012 has brought extreme and record breaking temps across the US. Take a look at this map from yesterday! Can you believe those temps? And all before July 1.


Graphic courtesy of The Weather Channel website.

Did you know that on average there are more heat related deaths than deaths related to any other natural disaster per year. In 2011, 206 individuals died as a result of extreme heat. So what are you doing to prepare your family for the heat?


– Listen to local forecasts. Being aware is being prepared.
– Discuss heat safety with your family. Make a plan for possible power outages.
– Revamp your emergency preparedness kit.Make sure your kit is fully stocked.
– Know those in your neighborhood that are more likely to be victims of extreme heat; like elderly, young, sick, or those without air conditioning.
– Verify that your pets’ needs for shelter and water are met.


– Listen to your NOAA Weather Radio for updates.
– Never leave children or pets in vehicles.
– Stay hydrated.
– Avoid extreme temperature changes.
– Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.
– Stay indoors and avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day.
– Take frequent breaks if working outside.
– Check on family, friends, neighbors, and pets.


Courtesy of American Red Cross

Stay safe, and have a great holiday next week!