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Fluids, save power to beat the heat

Heat and humidity combined to produce powerful storms last week. Photo by Wendi Reardon (click for larger version)
July 11, 2012 - With many hot days still ahead, storms like we saw last week may continue to occur and the health of those in the summer sun may be at risk.

However, there are ways residents can beat the heat and avoid increasing power outages. With temperatures reaching 100 degrees and higher, doctors and energy providers have advice to keep you cool and safe.

While St. Joseph and McLaren Oakland hospitals had no incidents of heat-related injury over the past week, Dr. Matt Swayze of McLaren Oakland warns those who are at greatest risk of heat stress injuries are "the very young and the very old."

He's also concerned about "anyone with chronic illness, especially diabetes."

Although Swayze recommends drinking more fluids during times of high temperatures, he stresses, "I don't mean caffeinated or alcoholic beverages."

He also doesn't recommend drinking full-strength Gatorade, which will dehydrate you; instead, "mix half Gatorade with water," he said.

You may want to get out and enjoy the summer with your children, but Swayze says to keep them in the shade even if they are in a pool or under a sprinkler. He recommends being careful of "physical activity outside" because "even those who are healthy" are at risk.

Most may feel weakness or dizziness if heat impacts their health, but "the elderly may feel confusion making them incapable of responding appropriately. Those are the ones I worry about the most," Dr. Swayze said.

"Make sure older people without power get in air conditioning," he added.

When it comes to air conditioning, Independence Township Firefighter Bob Cesario encourages families to conserve by going to public places like the mall to stay cool to avoid "causing a burden on the [electrical] system" by running their home air conditioners.

According to DTE spokesperson Eileen Dixon, overuse of "power taxes the system" and can cause brown outs.

Dixon encourages consumers to "reduce energy usage during a heat wave" to avoid putting extra strain on the power grid. To do so, residents can "defer from using appliances such as washers, driers, dishwashers, and dehumidifiers until after 9 pm (peak times)," Dixon said.

Turning off extra lights, pulling drapes or blinds closed during the hottest part of the day, and keeping exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens from running unnecessarily are other ways she suggests reducing the strain on the power system in the heat.

Besides losing electricity due to overuse of energy, high temperatures also contribute to severe weather, which in turn causes power outages "325,000 in our service area customers lost power as a result of the storms last week," Dixon said.

As of Friday, 90,000 homes were still out of power, and Springfield Township's civic center had no electricity. Those outages were due to wind and downed trees causing DTE crews to work in the high temperatures in an effort to restore electricity to their customers.

Meteorologist Dave Kook at the White Lake Weather Station explained, with the "heat and humidity combined, we were primed for thunderstorm development." With temperatures so high, a simple breeze can set off storms, Kook said.

Storms will "rapidly increase in intensity due to the instability caused by heat and humidity" and the "lingering affects of heat are dangerous," Kook stated.

Clarkston News reporter
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