What's Your Summertime Stay-Cool Strategy?

Guest

Drew Michaels, chief meteorologist, 40/29 News

The mercury continues to rise in the plains and the central part of the U.S., with many places experiencing record heat. In Fayetteville, Ark. it's expected to reach 100 degrees in the shade Wednesday. If you're riding out the heat wave, what tricks do you employ to make it more bearable?

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TONY COX, host:

In many parts of the country today, it has been exceptionally hot, stupid hot, with temperatures climbing into the hundreds. We mention this only because this is happening in places where, while it is expected to be hot in the summer, these high temperatures are quite unusual. For example, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the expected high is 100 degrees today, and the forecast is for more of the same.

So, how hot is it where you live and what are you doing to stay cool? We especially want to hear from county and city managers. What are you doing to help your residence beat the heat? Give us a call at 800-989-8255 or write us at talk@npr.org. And to join the conversation, just go to our website. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

We called chief meteorologist Drew Michaels at "40/29 News" in Rogers, Arkansas. Drew Michaels, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

Mr. DREW MICHAELS (Meteorologist): Hey, Tony, how are you?

COX: Man, I'm cooler than you. So how hot is it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MICHAELS: Well, right now, currently, we're seeing the upper 90s in northwest Arkansas. But part of our viewing area is throughout the Arkansas River Valley. We've got (unintelligible) and Fort Smith, which is right on the Arkansas/Oklahoma border. And right now they are sitting at 101 degrees. But, of course, this isn't the dry heat. We're out in the desert, got a lot of humidity. So the heat index in ranging anywhere throughout the area from about 101 to 110 degrees, that's the feel(ph)-like temperature on the body.

COX: Oh, wow, wow, wow. That is hot. This is unusual, isn't it? That's what we said, Drew, this is not the way it normally is. We know that it gets hot down there, but this is really hot.

Mr. MICHAELS: Yeah. Tony, just in general, I was kind of looking at some stats before coming on. Both northwest Arkansas and the River Valley - I just mentioned Fort Smith - we're going on above the 22nd day of above-average temperatures. Typically we should be between about 90 and 94 degrees throughout our viewing area when it comes to the heat. So, generally speaking, over the last week we've been running for the most part about 10 degrees above average.

COX: Why is this happening?

Mr. MICHAELS: Well, you know, one of the reasons, you know, when you kind of look at the broad scope of things, that no question, it gets hot around here. And we typically have, you know, bursts of, you know, of extreme heat throughout the summer. But when you look at the big pattern, we've gone from an El Nino this past winter, now into - it's called the La Nina. And, typically, during La Nina, across the central plains, we're above average when it comes to temperatures and we're drier.

And so, when you have a real - you know, when the vegetation starts to dry, you don't have as much evaporation to cool you down, you know, the atmosphere continuous to heat up. So, unfortunately, with this type of pattern, where the jet stream is way up north along the corn belt, we bake.

COX: We're talking about heat, heat, heat. And we're joined by Drew Michaels at "40/29 News" in Rogers, Arkansas. If you'd like to join the conversation, hit us up. 800-989-8255. The email address is talk@npr.org. Tell us how hot it is where you are and what you are doing to try to keep yourself cool.

Drew, here's a question for you. What are some of the things that we should be particularly concerned about when it gets this hot? I'm thinking about, you know, the elderly, young children, pets, for example.

Mr. MICHAELS: Absolutely. Yeah, you definitely want to check on your neighbors and, you know, if they don't have, you know, an air-conditioned place, you know, try to help them out. You know, a lot of people forget, you know, they may have an outdoor pet and they may have a shaded area, but a lot of times they're putting the bowl of water, you know, in maybe the sunshine and that water heats up so quickly, that animal is not able to drink that water when it's outside.

One of the things we did yesterday, I thought it was kind of interesting - we have one of these little heat sensing guns, and we went to a playground, Tony, and one of the things we found, something like the playground swings and even for the babies, that rubber if you kind of know what I'm talking about...

COX: I do.

Mr. MICHAELS: ...where you can put your child in, that measured roughly 150 degrees.

COX: No kidding.

Mr. MICHAELS: So, you know, it's just one of those things you don't think about, you know, where you're, you know, where youre out and about and, you know, maybe you're like, well, it seem somewhat shaded here. There's a bit of a breeze. But if that type of playground equipment has been in the sun, you can easily and especially for a child, you know, get a burn.

And then, of course, you know, for someone like me, I like to run and that's one of the activities, you know, I enjoy doing. You just have to keep hydrated so much because your body can dry out and you can easily slip into heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. It's very dangerous.

COX: You know, we're getting some emails in. Let me share a couple of them with you.

Mr. MICHAELS: Sure.

COX: This one comes from Hester(ph) in Buffalo, New York. How am I coping with Buffalo, New York's heat and humidity? That's a question. I'm complaining and drinking copious amounts of Pomegranate Pizzazz iced tea. So Ron(ph) is trying to stay cool hydrating himself, which is what you were talking about.

Mr. MICHAELS: Right.

COX: Here's a tweet from Lauren(ph). She says, in Denver, 95, sunny and hot, capital H-O-T. We open all of the windows at night and eat out sometimes to utilize free A/C. That's pretty clever.

Mr. MICHAELS: Cool.

COX: Here's another one. Monica(ph) in San Francisco. Now, I know it cannot be too hot in San Francisco. It never gets hot up there. If you're too hot, come to San Francisco. Okay, Monica. It was only 50 degrees this morning and we had the heater on this morning. She says, I miss the summer. That's a funny story that she has.

Here's a caller, actually, Drew. This is Ken(ph), calling us from Memphis, Tennessee. Hello, Ken. Are you cool?

KEN (Caller): Well, I'm trying to stay cool. I'm, right now, driving near Dyersburg, Tennessee. And the temperature is about 102 with a heat index approaching 120. They're forecasting 105 in Memphis today.

COX: Brutal.

KEN: I'm out in the heat just about the whole day.

COX: Well, do you have air conditioning? I hope.

KEN: Oh, yeah. I've got air conditioning in the car, but that eats into the gas mileage.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Thanks for that call, Ken. What do you tell people about their cars? You know, if your car has been sitting oh, let me ask you this, Drew, because...

Mr. MICHAELS: Sure.

COX: ...they sell these things at - you know, in the store, in the drugstore, these window shades...

Mr. MICHAELS: Right.

COX: ...that cool off your car. Are they worth anything?

Mr. MICHAELS: Yeah. My wife has one in her car, and it definitely reflects a lot of that sunlight, you know, coming in. I mean, your you know, Tony, your car is still going to be hot. There's no question about it. You're sitting out in 100-degree heat, that car is going to, you know, absorb - that energy, but it does help. And it kind of keeps your seats a little bit cooler too.

And a lot of people in the South - in the mid-south where we live, we have a lot of tinted, you know, tinted vehicles. You know, they tint the windows on their cars and that tends to help, too. But we've had tragic stories, you know, on and off, it never fails where, you know, a mother or a father will inadvertently, you know, leave their child in the car and, you know, and tragically that child will, you know, will die of, you know, of heat. And it just goes to show, you know, you just have to be so aware of the temperatures.

We don't, you know, we don't typically think of, you know, heat all the time as, you know, as a killer. You think around here, severe weather, you know, flash floods, tornadoes, all that kind of stuff. But, you know, you could just imagine, you know, having a child in the back seat and that, you know, that car is going to heat up really quickly.

COX: You're a meteorologist, Drew, and I imagine that people ask you all the time for your advice about what they should do to keep their homes cool. What do you tell them?

Mr. MICHAELS: You know, obviously, you know, most people around here, you know, if they can afford it, you know, will have, you know, central, you know, central air. But, you know, if you have shades, you know, draw the shades during the day, try to keep as much sunlight out of the house as possible. My wife was telling me this the other day, you know, you learn something new. You know, if you you know, if your thermostat is set pretty low and you got fans, turn on the fans, especially the ceiling fans, and you can basically take up the thermostat a couple of degrees because that helps to kind of balance, you know, balance off, you know, the heat a bit. So those are, you know, those are some different things. You just you want to try to keep the sunlight out as much as possible.

COX: How about another caller? You feel like taking another call, Drew?

Mr. MICHAELS: You bet.

COX: All right. Here we go. Dave(ph), Nashville, Tennessee, you're on TALK OF THE NATION. Welcome.

DAVE (Caller): Thanks so much. I'm big fan of the show. And I appreciate you guys talking about this crazy heat.

COX: It is hot, isn't it? You're in Nashville. It must be crazy hot down there.

DAVE: Well, it's 100 degrees with 110 heat index. And for me, I love to go fishing, but the fish aren't biting, Ill just tell you right now.

Mr. MICHAELS: Oh, they're hiding out way in the deep water.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVE: Yeah.

COX: Dave, thank you. Hey, Dave, how do you try to keep cool? What did you say you do?

DAVE: Well, I just pulled over to the Margaret Maddox YMCA in East Nashville. And I'm going to - I'm actually going to go to the sauna, believe it or not. But this is my theory, is if I can fool my body into thinking that 130, 140 degrees is tolerable, maybe 100 degrees will just feel like 70. I don't know.

COX: I don't know what to say about that, Dave. Thank you for that call. Drew, what about that? Make yourself really hot so when you get outside you won't feel as though you're hot.

Mr. MICHAELS: You know, mental you know, it's I guess, it's all about the mind, mind over matter. So, hey, good luck to you.

COX: More power to him, huh?

Mr. MICHAELS: (Unintelligible)

COX: Absolutely. Here's another email that came in from Tony(ph) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I am a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.

Mr. MICHAELS: Yeah.

COX: Oh, poor fellow out there in that heat today. Today, it is very humid and 90 degrees. I spend my day riding around in my mail truck with nothing but a dashboard fan to help keep cool. I drink plenty of water. But most of all, it becomes a state of mind. After 25 years, you just get used to it. You think that's true, Dave Drew, that people just get used to thank you for that - that people just get used to it?

Mr. MICHAELS: I think so. You know, from our perspective, you know, down here, the last couple of summers actually have been pretty tame when it comes to the heat. But looking back in, like, 2006, in Fort Smith, for example, we had 23 100-degree days or warmers days, if you will. So 2006, for us, was an extremely hot year.

The past couple of years, you know, we've been pretty lucky and actually we've had some rainfall. So this year, for us, getting back into the heat, some people I've talked to, they say, yeah, you know, I guess I kind of forgot about it. We had a little reprieve the past couple of years and, well, reality hits back in and now we got to get back into the zone.

COX: We're talking about the hot weather in the middle of the country and what you do to try to keep yourself cold. Join the conversation by hitting us up at our email: talk@npr.org. Or give us a call: 800-989-8255. Our guest is Drew Michaels who is the meteorologist at 4029 News in Rogers, Arkansas.

Here is - before we do that, let me just say this, you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

All right. Here's this email I want to share with you. It comes from -let's see - this is Amy(ph). Sweltering in Tulsa. I bet she is. Stay inside with air conditioning, exclamation point. In Tulsa, where we've hit 103, 103 degrees, I don't know how anyone makes it without air conditioning, and I feel immensely sorry for them. I cringe every time I see a car with windows down and children in the backseat.

Mr. MICHAELS: Mm-hmm.

COX: Walking the 0.1 mile from my car to work is more than enough heat exposure for me.

Let's take another call. We have - let's see - who's hot out there? I'm sure that Evan(ph) is hot. Yeah, Evan is probably hot in Watertown, South Dakota. Am I right about that, Evan? You hot out there?

EVAN (Caller): Yeah. I work road construction, actually, and I walk alongside a paver today.

COX: Oh.

EVAN: And not only is the heat index about 103 degrees, I'm also standing next to asphalt that's about 400 degrees when it hits the ground.

COX: Oh, man.

EVAN: And the only way I found that I can handle this summer after summer is I take what's called a shemagh, which is a traditional Afghani headwear, and I dip it in water in my cooler and I wrap it around my neck. And it literally feels like the air conditioning is on me all day.

Mr. MICHAELS: Wow.

COX: Really? That's...

EVAN: (Unintelligible)

COX: Say that again. Describe that one more time so people - want to make sure they heard it.

EVAN: Yeah, absolutely. You can even do it with just a towel. Just take a towel and dip it in, like, if you've got a cooler or cool or even warm water, and then wrap it around your neck. And it looks a little strange, but it feels like I'm standing in an air conditioned room.

COX: It looks weird, but it works, right?

EVAN: Yeah, it works.

COX: All right. Evan, thank you for that call. And one of the other questions, Drew, I have for you is this.

Mr. MICHAELS: Mm-hmm.

COX: We haven't talked about this much and the heat. When should you just sit your tail down, you know, and not move?

Mr. MICHAELS: You know, you hear folks, you know, taking siestas and, listen, I'll tell you what, there's a good reason for that. You know, typically, you know, the hottest part of the day is going to be between about 2:00 and 5:00. You know, the sun angle, of course, is going to be extremely, extremely strong throughout the afternoon.

But if you can get your work done, if you can, early, you know, say, through about 11:00 in the morning and be done with it and then kind of stay inside if you can or do something in the shade till, you know, after 5:00 or so, and then the sun angle starts to go down and, you know, it gets a little bit better.

So we typically tell people, if you have to be out and if you can schedule it, you know, you want to try to do things in the morning and the evening. You know, we still have daylight around here through about 8:30, so you can still get some things done. And I've seen a lot of people exercise and then doing that outside.

Real quick, Tony, I want to share this with you. A lot of the old timers, especially in Oklahoma, will say this, back when they were working, you know, back in the '30s and the '40s, one of the things they would do to keep cool would take cold water and put it on their wrists and just - and basically immerse, you know, immerse your wrists in cold water. I've done that after, you know, a couple of runs, you know, when I'm running outside, and that seems to work. I don't know...

COX: Really?

Mr. MICHAELS: ...pressure point or something. I'm not - that's not my expertise, but that seems to work sometimes if you kind of cool down your wrists.

COX: You mean - all right, I want to understand this. Take your whole -you - in order for me to put my wrist in water, I got to put my whole hand in it. So you're talking about putting the whole thing down in there, right?

Mr. MICHAELS: Yeah, or just take, you know, take the cold water, you know, coming from the faucet and take the underside of your wrist and just let that cold water run, you know, on the underside of your wrist. And it kind of tends to - it helps a little bit.

COX: You know, we have a caller from Tucson, Arizona. It's Tom(ph). Tom, I hope you're still there. I want to go to him only because Tom ought to be used to 100-degree weather all the time...

Mr. MICHAELS: Right.

COX: ...because in Arizona, California, Nevada, it does this every year. So, Tom, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION. Tell us what do we...

TOM (Caller): Hello?

COX: ...need to do to stay cooler.

TOM: Hello. Well, right now, it is a very mild and balmy 103.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TOM: And I just wanted to call to correct the perception that here in the Southwest we have nothing but the dry heat. We actually have two months of the year which are our monsoon season, so we can have 100-plus degrees plus, you know, 100-plus humidity, basically.

COX: So, the - but you have your A/C on right now, don't you, Tom?

TOM: Yes. Without A/C, I don't think it would be possible for modern homo sapiens to live in the Southwest.

COX: I think you're right about that, Tom. Thank you very much for the call. This has been very interesting. It is hot, hot, hot. So give us -as we goodbye to you, Drew, give us the forecast, the meteorological forecast you're going to do on the show tonight. What do we have in store?

Mr. MICHAELS: Well, Tony, I've got great news. And anyone who watches, you know, your favorite weather guy or weather girl on, you know, on TV, it's all about coming up with a story. That's kind of what we do. And the story for tonight, heat will continue into tomorrow, but a cold front arrives out of the Northwest and thatll provide some chances for showers and storms.

So we may actually get a little bit of a respite of some of the hot temperatures going into Thursday and Friday before the heat returns back over the weekend. So if we can get some showers and storms around here, if you get stuck under a thunderstorm, that temperature can drop about 20 degrees. I like to call it natural air conditioning.

COX: Drew Michaels, thank you very much for that weather report.

Mr. MICHAELS: All right, Tony.

COX: Drew Michaels is chief meteorologist at 4029 News in Rogers, Arkansas, where he joined us.

This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Stay cool.

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