Updated 6/8/2011: The last few days have been (with apologies to Sly and the Family Stone) more hot than fun. On June 7, Twin Cities temps reached 103 degrees, hotter than it has been since 1988, according to MPR. With official voices are warning of dangerous heat and poor air quality in early June, what’s next? Back in the day, strategies for beating the heat included riding around with the car windows open, sleeping on the screen porch, and hanging out in air-conditioned movie theaters. Here’s a round-up of heat-related news, advice and predictions—and an invitation to share your advice, recipes, and complaints.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued an air quality notification for Tuesday and Wednesday, noting ozone levels that are “unhealthy for sensitive groups” on Tuesday and “moderate” particle pollution both days. Sign up for future alerts at http://aqi.pca.state.mn.us.
Local environmental activist Allen Muller noted in an email that there should have been an air quality alert on Monday as well:
Yesterday, June 6, was a “Code Orange” (“Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups”) bad air day in much of Minnesota. The official offending pollutant was ozone. But this is misleading. Particle pollution levels were also elevated, officially to “Moderate” (Code Yellow).
(However, no alert was ever issued for yesterday by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) because, we are told, their contract forecasting service–Sonoma Technology, Petaluma, CA–failed to forecast correctly. By the time the PCA realized concentrations were climbing above forecast levels, the agency considered that an alert would be too late to do much good. The MPCA has generally taken this responsibility seriously–within the serious limitations of the federal framework–but it is disturbing that air quality could deteriorate as seriously as it did yesterday afternoon in the Metro without any notice being issued. I hope a post-mortem will be done on how this came about and how it can be avoided in the future.)
Muller also observes that the “Air Quality Index System is based on the single highest pollutant,” and that, “Air pollutants, pollen, heat, and humidity, individually, are health stressors and the combination, although not officially considered or reported, can be far worse.”
Speaking of far worse, Newsweek just published an in-depth warning on severe weather and climate change impacts, titled “Are you ready for more?” The article begins with the Joplin tornado, and goes on to warn: “The stable climate of the last 12,000 years is gone. Which means you haven’t seen anything yet. And we are not prepared.”
The city of Minneapolis sent out an advisory on coping with the heat, which has some helpful tips:
◦ Drink more fluids. Drinking fluids helps your body cool itself. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Don’t drink liquids with caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar. They can actually cause your body to lose more fluid.
◦ Never leave any person or animals in a closed, parked vehicle.
◦ Wear lightweight, loose-fitted clothing.
◦ Check on your neighbors who may be at risk. Visit seniors and other vulnerable neighbors at least twice a day and look closely for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Seek medical advice immediately if you notice nausea, weakness, disorientation, rapid pulse and dry skin.
◦ Stay indoors if you can. Air conditioning is your best defense against heat-related illness. If you must be outside, try to limit your activity to morning and evening hours, take frequent breaks in the shade, drink plenty of fluids, and protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen. The City of Minneapolis provides a list of public, air-conditioned buildings for those who don’t have air conditioning in their homes.
◦ Don’t rely on an electric fan. Electric fans may seem to provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Using wet cloths or a spray of mist on exposed skin will help cool your body temperature.
Two quarts rhubarb
Boil rhubarb, water, sugar, lemon jucie until cooked well. Add jello. Cool. Process through Foley food mill. Add vodka. Freeze. Serve with citrus-flavored soda.
For a list of air-conditioned public buildings in Minneapolis, go to the Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support website.
My favorite cool-down (so far) this summer is a Rhubarb Slush—both the drink and the recipe served up by my sister-in-law, Joan Turck.
Have a heat tip? Post it as a comment below.