By Ron Barry
If you’ve ever rooted for the weather forecasters to be wrong, now would be a good time to access your prayer powers or implement your superstitions or rain dances.
Beginning today (Wednesday) and running through at least next Tuesday, high temperatures in West Tennessee are going to run consistently between 99 and 102 degrees, with an occasional heat index reaching from 111 to 115 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
The weather system which began on the west coast over the past weekend and steamrolled through Texas on Monday will be here by the time this edition of The Crockett County Times is published. College Station, Texas – home of Texas A&M University – reached a record high temperature of 111 degrees as the system passed through.
“This heatwave is very dangerous and possibly deadly,” a spokesperson at NWS Nashville said. “With extreme heat lasting several days, the risk for heat illness increases.”
Extreme temperatures can lead to several heat-related conditions that could be deadly for many people, especially the elderly and those with other medical conditions. Two of the most common are heatstroke and heat exhaustion.
With heatstroke, the body can’t cool itself. Its temperature rises quickly, and its natural cooling mechanism – sweat – fails. A person’s temperature can rise to a dangerous 106 degrees or higher within just 10 or 15 minutes. This can lead to disability or even death. Persons with heatstroke may sweat profusely or not at all. They can become confused or pass out, and they could have a seizure.
Heat exhaustion happens when the body losses too much water or salt through excessive sweating. It can occur with symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, irritability, thirst, headache, and elevated body temperature.
With both conditions, emergency help is needed quickly. While waiting for assistance, bystanders can try to cool the person by moving them to the shade and giving them water.
Extreme high temperatures can also put significant strain on the heart or make breathing more difficult. Studies have shown that exposure to extreme heat can also contribute to mental health issues, problems for pregnant women, and poor birth outcomes.
The elderly, children, and people with chronic diseases and mental health problems are at the highest risk of heat-related illness, along with people who take certain medicines, according to the CDC. Doctors say it’s important to monitor those who are very young or very old, because they’re not able to regulate their body temperature as well.
Heat is the leading weather-related killer in the United States, even though most heat-related deaths are preventable through outreach and intervention.
As bad as the heat has been in West Tennessee since late June, at least we’re somewhat acclimated to it here. In other parts of the world – notably Europe – their populations are struggling with unprecedented high temperatures.
Ireland on Monday recorded 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit at Phoenix Park in Dublin, the country’s highest-ever recorded temperature in over a century and a new record for the month of July, the Irish Meteorological Service said.
Monday’s temperature at Phoenix Park is only 0.3 degrees below the all-time 135-year-old record set at Kilkenny Castle in Ireland in 1887, the Irish Observational Climatology said.
Records for high temperatures were broken across many cities and towns in the west of France on Monday as the country continues to battle wildfires burning in its southwestern region of Gironde.
The town of Cazaux, threatened by the raging wildfires in Gironde, recorded 108.3 degrees Fahrenheit, the hottest it has ever seen since its weather station first opened more than 100 years ago in 1921, according to the French national meteorological service Météo France.
Major cities in Western France, such as Nantes and Brest, have also seen their records updated by the heatwave on Monday — Nantes saw 107.6 degrees and Brest 102.7 degrees, according to Météo France.
Sweltering temperatures in Portugal have exacerbated a drought that started before the heat wave, according to data from the national meteorological institute. About 96% of the mainland was already suffering severe or extreme drought at the end of June.
More than 1,100 people are thought to have already died in the ongoing heatwave in southern Europe.
On Saturday, Portugal’s Health Ministry said 659 mainly elderly people had died in the previous seven days.
And Spain on Monday estimated more than 510 heatwave-related deaths, according to calculations by the Carlos III Health Institute.
Paris was expected to reach 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit Tuesday.
Globally, 188 all-time heat records have been broken so far in 2022, with more than 50 of those occurring in the past week. In the US alone, 92 all-time record high temperatures had been set through July 16.
Network Rail, which owns, operates, and develops Britain’s rail infrastructure, asked people not to travel Tuesday due to extreme heat. The company said in a tweet the East Coast Main Line will be closed and no services will run between London King’s Cross and York and Leeds. Network Rail also said conditions on other routes are subject to change depending on the weather. Extreme heat can cause the rail to expand, causing it to bend and buckle, the company says, adding the high temperatures can also be dangerous for workers.