Heat Feature

Jordan Nickson, 7, of Tulsa jumps in a mud puddle made from water from a firehose while children play at Hutcherson Family YMCA on Saturday. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World

Monday afternoon could bring Tulsa’s first official triple-digit temperature of the summer, and officials are urging residents to take precautions amid sweltering heat indices.

Tulsa officially reached a high of 99 degrees at Tulsa International Airport and a maximum heat index of 113 on Sunday, and Monday’s high is forecast to reach near 100 degrees with a heat index between 110 and 115, according to the National Weather Service.

Tulsa has only hit 99 one other day this summer, which was about a week ago on Aug. 6.

Although triple-digit temperatures would be a milestone for the season, Mike Lacy, a forecaster with NWS Tulsa, said heat indices are what really matter, and they’ve been tip-toeing above 100 for a while.

The weather service issued excessive heat warnings for Saturday, Sunday and Monday for much of northeastern Oklahoma as heat indices were forecast to peak between 110-120 degrees. Heat indices combine the effects of high temperatures and humidity relative to human comfort.

Highs Tuesday are expected to drop to near 90, offering some relief for the rest of the week, forecasters said.

Despite the tangibility of the stifling heat, Lacy said this summer is considered normal or even a bit cooler compared to those in the past.

Historical flooding in May brought enough precipitation to keep the ground and air saturated for most of the summer, making it more difficult for temperatures to climb, Lacy said.

“That set the tone for the summer,” he said.

He compared the effect to boiling green beans; once the water boils off, the beans will burn.

June’s precipitation level was 2.2 points above a 30-year climatological average, and August’s, as of Friday, was 1.23 points above normal.

Since 1980, Tulsa’s average temperature for the summer months has been 94 degrees.

Lacy said the NWS considers summer to be June through August, and the hottest spell for the state is typically mid-July through mid-August.

Summer highs typically peak in August, and Lacy compared this summer to worse in the past, such as in 2011 and 2012, when max temperatures reached 113 and 112 degrees, respectively.

Highs in the six summers since have bounced around 101 degrees, save for this past summer, when temperatures peaked in July 2018 at 106.

Although the humidity is helpful for keeping overall temperatures down, it can be especially oppressive to people, Lacy said.

High humidity hinders people’s natural temperature-regulating process, evaporative cooling, and it essentially suffocates the body, Lacy said.

“All that sweat that’s on your body, it doesn’t go away,” he said.

In the coming days, it’s important for residents to take precautions, Adam Paluka, a spokesman for EMSA, said.

EMSA issued heat alerts Saturday and Sunday, which are issued every time medics respond to five or more suspected heat-related illness calls in 24 hours.

Since May, medics have responded to about 275 heat-related illness calls. More than 45 of those occurred this past week, Paluka said.

Although those are fine figures in perspective of Tulsa’s overall population, each could have been avoided, Paluka said.

“It’s mostly people who haven’t adequately prepared for the conditions and don’t have resources to take care of themselves once they get outside,“ Paluka said.

Anyone who is outside in the heat should pay attention to their body, remaining watchful for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, he said.

If someone is past the point of self-correction, Paluka said not to hesitate to call for help.

“Heat stroke can be fatal,” he added.

In typical Oklahoma fashion, Lacy said a cool front is expected to bring down overall temperatures come Tuesday for a short relief.

Until then, EMSA offered the following tips for staying healthy in the heat:

• Prehydration is key to preventing heat-related illnesses. Drink plenty of water or electrolyte replacement drinks several hours prior to and during long exposure to the summer heat.

• Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat if working outdoors, and take plenty of shade breaks.

• Consume no alcohol or caffeine.

• If you don’t have air conditioning, find a cooling station or public space (such as a library or mall) during the day.

• Don’t limit your air conditioning. If you are concerned about your electric bill, call PSO or 211. They have programs that could possibly help you.

• Check on elderly neighbors.

• Use the buddy system if working outdoors.

• Keep a cellphone on you at all times when outdoors, including while walking, running errands, doing yard work or taking part in sports and physical activity.

The following cooling stations are open for business until further notice:

The Salvation Army Center of Hope, 102 N. Denver Ave.; 24/7

John 3:16 Mission, 506 N. Cheyenne Ave.; 24/7

Dennis R. Neill Equality Center, 621 E. Fourth St.; noon–9 p.m.

Tulsa County Social Services, 2401 Charles Page Blvd.; 8:30 a.m.–8 p.m.

Dial 211 for locations, hours and other information. Dial 211 for information on applying for a window unit air conditioner or other resources.

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Kelsy Schlotthauer



Twitter: @K_Schlott 

Kelsy graduated with a journalism degree from Oklahoma State University in 2018 and moved to Colorado to cover breaking news before The World called her home in 2019. Follow her on Twitter for real-time reports. Phone: (918) 581-8455

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