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Heat affecting more than comfort


July 11, 2012
The last three weeks have been so hot that the age-old question "Is it hot enough for you?" has virtually disappeared.

Yes, it's hot enough.

Hot enough to cook eggs on a sidewalk, cookies in a car and make the local pool feel like bath water.

The latest heat wave, however, has created a potentially perilous environment for young and old alike, animals and even crops that are withering in the fields.

How can we still be in a drought if it rained this weekend?

While the rain was enough to keep the drought from worsening for a day or two, it will ultimately fail to pull Crawford and the surrounding counties out of the moderate to severe drought they are experiencing.

During the summer, and especially in a drought, it is important to take precautions to make sure that you beat the heat.

The most obvious way to avoid overexposure to the elements is to stay indoors, but, if you cannot, the Red Cross recommends that you follow some of these basic safety measures:

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

•Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat.

•Make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages; opt for water instead.

•Wear sunscreen. Be sure to choose an SPF of 15 or better to avoid burning in the sun. Re-apply after activities involving water or after sweating.

•Never leave children or pets in the vehicle during the summer, not even for a minute. The temperature inside a vehicle with the windows cracked can rise as quickly as 20 degrees in 10 minutes.

•Check on family and friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning.

Heat-related illnesses include heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which is the most serious. If you experience or notice dizziness or headache, vomiting or high body temperature, move to a cool, dry place. If someone around you experiences a loss in consciousness, call emergency services.

Farmers, growers and those with home gardens and flower beds are experiencing an especially stressful season.

Purdue Extension corn specialist Bob Nielson said Indiana crop conditions haven't been this deteriorated since 1988 and the state's corn crop has fallen off. Only 19 percent was given a good to excellent rating by the USDA because of poor soil moisture.

Nielson also said that a break in the drought would minimize further deterioration but would not create a full recovery for the crop yield this year.

Because of the early planting, crops are at a growth stage where they are consuming a vast amount of moisture and, because of the dry conditions, that moisture isn't being replaced.

Its importance to plants is like that of fossil fuels to humans; they need it to get where they're going, and, once it's gone, it's not coming back.

Nielson said he doesn't know how much worse it could be for the corn crop that is coming into pollination all over the state.

If the drought continues, livestock producers will be looking at a potential budget shortfall, as well. Lack of rain means a shortage of pastureland.

When livestock pasture is in shortage, growers must use more hay and feed to supplement the shortage. It creates a strain on an already stretched budget.

It seems the only good news for growers is that the market has taken notice of the reduced yield. Corn and soybeans have both made jumps and are being traded higher, though higher trades and more money will do nothing for those who've lost everything.

Stay safe this summer

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

•Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat.

•Make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages; opt for water instead.

•Wear sunscreen. Be sure to choose an SPF of 15 or better to avoid burning in the sun. Re-apply after activities involving water or after sweating.

•Never leave children or pets in the vehicle during the summer, not even for a minute.

•Check on family and friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning.

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Barbara Shaw
Schuler Bauer
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