Hot enough to fry an egg

Published 12:23 am Thursday, June 25, 2009

Crack an egg on a sidewalk in Pearl River County, and although it may not sizzle when it drops to the concrete, or even fry, (it takes 158 degrees), the oppressive heat residents have been experiencing makes it seem as though it will. With no rainfall sine June 4, the National Weather Service says conditions are even more dangerous, health and safety-wise, for residents and animals.

Freddie Zeigler, forecaster with the NWS in Slidell, said Pearl River County is under a heat advisory with the long string of above-95 degree days. “Some records are being broken,” said Zeigler, noting that so far, the region has seen seven days in a row with temperatures over 95 degrees.

The last string of above 95 degree days was in 1998 when 10 days passed with the suppressive heat. Prior to that, 1977 was the last time the area had consecutive days of 95 degree heat, with nine days.

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Compounding the problem, said Zeigler, was the heat index. He explained that the heat index is essentially how it feels outside when the temperature and humidity are combined in a formula to determine how hot it feels and at what point people begin to suffer from the heat. Thus, he said, with temperatures of 95 degrees, the heat index can make it feel like 105. Noting that the heat index is measured in the shade, Zeigler said mowing a lawn in the middle of the afternoon could expose a person to a heat index of 120 degrees or more.

“People need to be extremely careful,” said Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown. “Getting outside to do yard work in the middle of the day is not a good idea, do it early in the morning or late in the afternoon.”

Brown said firefighters were fortunate to date that there had not been an increase of fires or major medical calls as a result of the heat. He said that people still need to take precautions in their activities. “You just need to be careful what you are doing outside,” said Brown.

As for the weather conditions affecting residents’ safety, Pearl River County Emergency Management director Danny Manley pointed out that unnecessary and unattended burnings were small issues that could quickly escalate into bigger problems during this heat wave. “We need to be careful in our own backyards,” said Manley. “We need to refrain from unnecessary burning.”

Manley said that unattended fires have recently been the number one cause of uncontrolled fires and that in this heat, firemen in full uniform fighting fires are in danger of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

“I am concerned about the safety of our fire departments,” said Manley, adding that residents can help the local fire departments by not burning until conditions improve and by taking them bottles of water. “If they want to do something to help our local fire departments they can bring them some (bottled) water,” said Manley.

As for the city of Picayune, Chief Brown said that at this time the department is not issuing any burn permits until the weather improves. He said that although it was too late this year to ban fireworks within the city limits, they were considering an overall ban for the future.

“We are studying it heavily,” said Brown, adding that the tip of a sparkler can reach 1,200 degrees. “That is a third degree burn,” he said, noting that if residents do light firecrackers to be sure children have adult supervision.

“The main thing in this heat is to be careful,” Brown said.