Published: 2011-07-22 06:08:00
Updated: 2011-07-22 22:35:17
Posted July 22, 2011 6:08 a.m. EDT
Updated July 22, 2011 10:35 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Sweltering and dangerous heat gripped the Triangle for another day Friday with triple-digit temperatures and heat indices expected.
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for most of the central and eastern portions of North Carolina until 8 p.m. Saturday. Highs could reach 104 degrees in some areas, pushing heat index values up to 115 degrees.
"Most likely, we will see this tomorrow and possibly Sunday," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.
By 4 p.m. Friday, the temperature had reached 102 degrees at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, and the heat index was at 110 degrees.
Movie lovers who attended the "Sound of Music" sing-a-long at Cary's Koka Booth Amphitheatre came prepared with battery-operated fans and stocked coolers.
"I put a bottle of water in the freezer last night so that I have a frozen bottle of water that I can put on my neck and put on my arms, and it really cools you off," said Cheryl Kelly. "As it melts, I can drink the cold water."
Heat, humidity stick around through weekend
There's a chance of isolated showers and storms throughout the weekend, but Gardner said any rain likely won't do anything to lower temperatures.
If the temperatures aren't enough, humidity will make it feel even hotter.
An excessive heat warning, issued when the heat index is expected above 110 degrees, means chances are greater for heat-related illnesses as a result of prolonged exposure or strenuous activity in the heat.
Air quality officials also issued a Code Orange alert, meaning that air pollution will make the outdoors unhealthy for children, older adults, those who work or exercise outdoors and people with heart or respiratory conditions. Those people should avoid moderate exertion outdoors.
WakeMed in Raleigh said Friday that doctors there have seen a significant increase in heat-related illnesses and injuries over the past week compared to last year. Thirty-one people have been treated at the health care system's five emergency rooms across Wake County, a spokeswoman said.
Most of the patients being treated, health workers said, are healthy adults, especially construction workers, who have been working outside and have been trying to stay hydrated.
Doctors say staying hydrated is key, but many senior citizens are on heart and blood pressure medicines that flush out fluids, and the seniors don't realize they aren't drinking enough.
"Could we see deaths? We certainly could," said Dr. David Messerly, an emergency room physician at Rex Hospital. "We’re getting into temperatures that are especially dangerous, so we’ll tell everybody, but especially the elderly, to stay indoors, don’t go out in the heat and stay hydrated."
The heat is also a danger to pets.
Triangle Veterinary Referral Hospital in Durham saw two dogs, including one that died from heat stroke on Thursday, staff said.
Beau, a 170-pound bullmastiff, is expected to be OK after suffering a heat stroke Thursday evening.
His owner, Richard Jacobson, said they were driving from Washington, D.C., to Florida in an air-conditioned car when the dog became overheated.
Jacobson said Beau collapsed at a hotel Thursday night, and that Jacobson put him in the shower to cool him off before taking him to the veterinarian.
"He was panting really bad, and his tongue was hanging out. We ran and got a luggage cart, put him on top of that, pushed him in the room and put the shower on him," Jacobson said.
Vets urge owners to limit their pets' outdoor activity to cooler parts of the day and build activity slowly. Owners should watch for breathing problems, vomiting and diarrhea, seizure and collapse.
The heat has also been taking its toll on energy use.
Mike Hughes, a spokesman, for Progress Energy, said customers have been using a "significant amount" of electricity, having used on Thursday the most in a 24-hour period so far this year.
That was expected to be eclipsed Friday, he said. Plans are in place, he said, to keep up with customer demand, he added.
"This is the time of the year when customer bills are at their highest," Hughes said.
But consumers can take small, common-sense measures that will help them save on their utility bills, such as keeping blinds closed and checking filters in air-conditioning units.
The utility company has other ways to save energy and money on its website, he said, including information on energy efficiency programs and bill payment plans.