LUMBERTON — A heat wave is expected to roll through the Southeast this weekend, plunging Robeson County into oppressive and potentially record-breaking heat.
Three-digit temperatures are predicted from Friday through Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, which has put the county under an excessive heat watch. Saturday is expected to be the hottest, with temperatures reaching 101 degrees; a high humidity level could make it feel like 115 degrees.
“It’s going to be dangerous and near record-breaking heat,” said Sandy LaCorte, meteorologist for the National Weather Service. “Heat is the No. 1 cause of weather-related injury, and it’s kind of underrated. People don’t realize how dangerous it is.”
Last summer, Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Lumberton had treated 27 people for heat-related conditions — heat exhaustion, heat cramps and dehydration — by July 22, according to hospital spokesperson Amanda Crabtree.
Signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, fatigue, and excessive sweating. A decrease in the ability to sweat or nausea with headache are signs of heat stroke, for which medical attention should be sought immediately, said Don Metzger, a physicians assistant in the hospital’s Emergency Department.
Heat stroke, a life-threatening condition, can arise within 10 to 15 minutes of developing heat exhaustion, according to Metzger.
“The inner temperature of your body becomes so hot that it cuts of blood supply to organs to try to cool down your internal organs,” Metzger said. “Systems start shutting down, and death is imminent.”
Dehydration can occur within 30 minutes to an hour in extreme temperatures, Metzger said. Eight ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes is recommended for those exerting themselves outside. Products such as tea, soda, coffee and alcohol should be avoided, as these products contain a diuretic that causes water loss.
“Try to seek shade whenever possible and minimize skin exposed to the sun by wearing lightweight clothing,” Metzger said. ‘White is preferred because it reflects sun.”
Ricky Ward, owner of Southern Heating and Air at 2105 E. Elizabethtown Road, said that the business would be heavily staffed during the weekend in case of system failures. To help prevent possible problems, Ward said filters in air-conditioning systems should be changed or cleaned, and circuit breakers should be the first thing to check if a system stops working.
“I’m sure energy providers are going to reach their peak which may cause loss of voltage and can cause circuit breakers to trip,” Ward said. “We would recommend everybody to draw their curtains and close their blinds to keep the radiation heat out, and to keep the door closed as much as possible to keep heat infiltration to a minimum.”
Pets and livestock that cannot be kept indoors should be allowed access to shade and provided plenty of water, LaCorte said. Panting, reddened gums, muscle tremors and unconsciousness are symptoms of heat stroke in animals, according to petmd.com.
The normal high temperature for the county around this time of year is about 91 degrees, LaCorte said. Last year’s temperatures were a little higher, at 96 degrees, and the county did not hit the 100-degree mark until July.
“It’s definitely considered a heat wave,” she said.