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Feeling hot

Published July 07. 2010 05:00PM

Hey, Carbon and surrounding counties, is it hot enough for you?

The area has been experiencing a massive heat wave this week, with temperatures hovering in the high-90 degree area since our nation's birthday three days ago.

Yesterday, the heat seemed to be at its peak, as Tamaqua baked under the 100 degree sun and Allentown set a record-breaking high of 101. Temperatures haven't been this high since a similar dry spell in July, 1988.

Yet, there is some good news on the horizon: a cold front is creeping in slowly from the west. According to meteorologists, it should touch down in Pennsylvania this weekend, bringing some much-needed rain with it.

"Hopefully, the mugginess will be swept to the east, and we'll get some relief from the aggressive heat," Barry Lambert, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's State College office, said. "Even though the temperature may be lower, the humidity will still make things miserable."

Lambert explained that the recent spike in temperature is due to a stagnant cluster of pressure in the upper layers of the atmosphere. This pressure limits wind movement, and causes a sinking motion that gradually pushes the heat down.

As the ground heats up, evaporation increases exponentially, robbing the area of its moisture. Eventually, the heat is literally absorbed into the ground, warming the air closer to it.

Paul Walker, a senior meteorologist with, warns that the side effects of the heat can be harmful, if not fatal.

"The stagnant air mass has ruined the quality of the air in the area," he said. "With the present build up of the ozone layer, airborne pollutants cannot be dispersed. This compounds the problem, especially for people who have sensitive conditions."

Individuals over the age of 65 are the most vulnerable to the heat, and need to take extra precautions to avoid succumbing to illness or injury.

"Protection from the sun and hydration are the two most important measures to take," Mark Nalesnik, of the Carbon County Emergency Management Agency, said. "Even with the usual protection (sun block, hats, etc.), being out in the heat can be dangerous, and people can be overtaken quickly without even knowing."

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are serious conditions, and can quickly lead to death if not addressed properly. Luckily, there's a fairly simple way of ensuring safety: staying inside.

Ann Horrigan, local senior services center director with the Carbon County Area Agency on Aging, claimed that the safest place for the area's elder residents during a heat wave is indoors. However, individuals still need to be mindful of certain conditions.

"If a home does not have air conditioning, fans need to be run near open windows, otherwise only hot air will be circulated," she said. "If a home is not cooled at all, I urge people to spend time in buildings, such as malls, stores, and even our senior centers, where air conditioning is available."

Horrigan also suggests drinking plenty of non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated fluids, even if thirst isn't an issue, and taking cool baths frequently. If outdoor activity cannot be avoided, light-colored clothing should be worn, and strenuous activity avoided.

"We ask people who know of elderly people living in the area to check in on them frequently," she said. "They're a high risk population, and we need to ensure their safety."

Physical health isn't the only thing at risk, however. According to Joni Gestl, the administrative coordinator of Lehighton Ambulance, tempers are apt to parallel the rising temperatures.

"People lose their tolerance for the heat the longer it lasts," she said. "As the days go on, the weather may lead to irritable behavior, and incidents related to that become more frequent."

So how can denizens of Carbon County beat the heat, and hopefully avoid doing the same to their peers? Area pools are shouldering their share of the burden, as the Baer Memorial and Lansford Pools are adding more lifeguards to mid-day shifts.

"We had close to 1,500 people here on the 4th," Sue Arner, a Palmerton Pool employee said. "Similar numbers are definitely expected for the rest of the week."

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