With Tri-City thermometers predicted to hit triple digits today as summer heat finally arrives in earnest, officials are warning the sudden change can be dangerous for people and pets.
The National Weather Service is predicting highs of 100 to 105 degrees today in the Lower Columbia Basin.
That comes after a June with only four days that reached 90 degrees or more in the Tri-Cities, said Ann Adams, National Weather Service assistant forecaster.
Dr. Larry Jecha of the Benton-Franklin Health District said the lack of 90-degree days so far this summer means residents haven't had a chance yet to adjust to the heat and warned they should take extra precautions.
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It can take a body two weeks to acclimate, he said.
High temperatures can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, Jecha said. Concern is especially high for the young and elderly, with at least one case of possible heat illness reported Thursday involving an elderly man.
To avoid heat-related illnesses, Jecha advises drinking plenty of liquids, avoiding alcohol and caffeine and avoiding strenuous exercise outdoors during the hottest parts of the day.
The American Red Cross says people should avoid extreme temperature changes, eat small meals and eat more often, try to stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day and wear lightweight, loose-fitting and light-colored clothing.
Children and pets should never be left unattended in a vehicle during the heat, even for a few minutes.
On average, 37 children who are left unattended in a hot car die nationwide each year, according to the Safe Kids Coalition.
And pets left in vehicles on a hot day also can die quickly.
On an 85-degree day, the inside of a car can reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes and 120 degrees in 30 minutes, even if a window is partially open, said Ed Dawson, Benton-Franklin Humane Society operations manager.
When it's warmer outside, the car temperature goes up faster.
A dog's normal body temperature is 101.5 degrees, Dawson said. A dog can have brain damage if its body temperature reaches 107 degrees, and a body temperature over 108 can be fatal.
Animals need to be kept hydrated and cool, and the best place for them to be is inside if possible, Dawson said.
If pets are left outdoors during the day, Angela Zilar, Tri-Cities Animal Control director, said they need to have access to shade the entire day and plenty of water. She also advises not chaining up a dog, as it could tangle the chain and not be able to reach water.
People also should avoid walking their dogs during the hottest time of the day, from about 2 to 6 p.m. That will not only help the pet but also the person, Dawson said.
He said the general rule of thumb is "treat animals like you would yourself."
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org