The heat is on: Locals try to stay cool during hot weather

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

DULUTH -- Anthony Griggs gassed up a lawn mower Monday under a brutal, blazing sun.

The Duluth public works employee was getting ready to cut grass in the downtown area just as the hot weather that has moved into Georgia settled in for the next few days.

"Starting last week it started getting pretty hot," Griggs said, "and today, we're kind of feeling it more today because the temperature rose a lot."

Despite temperatures that reached up into the mid-90s, Griggs was dressed for safety in a dark blue, long-sleeved jumpsuit -- the pants and long sleeves protect him from any debris coming off the mower blades. A baseball cap protected his face from the sun while dark sunglasses shielded his eyes.

"(I'm) staying cool as much as possible," Griggs said. "Drink a lot of water and stay hydrated the best way you can."

While actual temperatures in Gwinnett hovered between the low to mid-90s on Monday, heat index values topped out at about 100 degrees. A heat index combines air temperature and relative humidity in an attempt to determine how hot it actually feels outdoors. Heat indexes are expected to reach 105 degrees or higher in certain areas, with Gwinnett part of a list of Georgia counties included in a National Weather Service hazardous weather outlook issued due to the intense heat.

Nate Mayes, an NWS meteorologist, said a high pressure area centered over the Florida panhandle is controlling weather from Texas to the Atlantic coast, with forecasts calling for temperatures in the 90s in the Gwinnett area for the remainder of the week.

Business on the roof-top patio at McCray's Tavern on the Square in Lawrenceville was slower than usual during lunch Monday.

"I actually had someone kind of giggle at me when I asked if they wanted to go out to the patio," said Katie Watkins, who worked the patio during lunch. "They said, 'Outside?'"

Those who did venture out onto the patio took advantage of the canopies that were erected more than a month ago and shield customers from the sun.

"It's definitely a lot better, especially without the direct sunlight," said Watkins, who works the patio about four times a week. "Being outside it's just like any other thing, of course there's an initial heat but you get used to it. You definitely have to stay hydrated up there."

According to the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention, the best defense against heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, is prevention. Here are some prevention tips:

* Drink more nonalcoholic fluids, regardless of activity level. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink.

* Avoid liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar, beverages that actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks because they can cause stomach cramps.

* Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned space. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library -- even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.

* Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.

* Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others, including infants and young children, adults age 65 and older, people with mental illnesses and those who are physically ill, especially those with heart disease or high blood pressure.

If you must be out in the heat, limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours, cut down on exercise and try to rest often in shady areas. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, which will also keep you cooler, sunglasses and sunscreen.