A high-pressure “dome” hovering over the Southeast is making things pretty hot and dry around Bulloch County, and the heat wave could endanger crops, pets and people.
The temperatures have been clinging to the high 90’s, but the “feels like” heat index makes it seem even hotter, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn.
High temperatures this past week approached the triple digits, with heat indices reaching up to 108 degrees, he said. The best bet is to stay indoors as much as possible during the hottest part of the day, but if you must be outside, observe safety precautions, he said.
“Also, never leave anyone – a child, pet, the elderly (or) anyone - in a vehicle. Check on your elderly neighbors to be sure they are ok- the elderly don’t adjust as well as the young to sudden extreme temperature changes. Chronic medical conditions can change their body’s response,” he said.
National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Emlaw, with the NWS Charleston office, said the temperatures may lower slightly –“one or two degrees a day” – over the next few days, but the changes will be slow and the heat is expected to remain unusually high for the next several days.
The high pressure “dome of sinking air” diminishes rain chances, but there is a slight possibility of scattered thunderstorms that will increase Friday. However, the showers will “be few and far between,” he said.
That’s not good news for area farmers, especially if they have corn planted. Irrigated corn is better off than dryland corn, said Bulloch County agent Bill Tyson.
Corn needs “one and a quarter to two inches of rain a week” to pollenate and form kernels adequately, he said. The high heat and dry conditions can hurt pollination.
That’s what concerns local farmer Wade Hodges. He has both irrigated and dryland corn, and although some of his fields receive d a “pretty good rain” last week, it needs more. “We’re hoping it gets pollenated,” he said Tuesday.
The extreme dry heat has had a visible effect on some corn crops in the area. Dryland corn crops “look pretty rough,” he said. “If we can just get some good rain we’ll be OK.”
Rocky Ford farmer Clint Finch didn’t plant corn this year, and said he is glad he doesn’t have to deal with the worry over potential corn crop damage. “Dryland corn is pretty much burned up,” he said. However, his soybean and peanut fields, while not in danger yet, could also use some rainfall. “The crops haven’t lost yet, but we do need some rain.”
Moisture evaporates and is used by the plant, and that takes away from additional moisture needed to make a good kernel, Tyson said. The longer a crop goes without water, the more damage to the yield, he said.
Other crops such as soybeans, peanuts and cotton aren’t in real danger at this time, and since most of Bulloch received good rainfall over the past few weeks, the hot, dry weather is ideal for farmers cutting and baling hay, he said.
Vegetable growers usually irrigate their crops, so they aren’t feeling the pinch as badly. Plus, the weather discourages diseases that run rampant in damp weather, he said.
Overall, however, “I hope we will see some rain soon,” he said.
There may not be much that can be done for corn and other crops suffering the heat, but people and pets can keep hydrated and cool by following the following tips, Wynn said.
· Drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids, even if you aren’t thirsty. Don’t drink liquids that contain large amounts of sugar–these 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 place. 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.
· 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.
· Never leave anyone or a pet in a closed, parked vehicle.
· Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.
· Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
· Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. Try to rest often in shady areas.
· Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher.
· Bring pets indoors if possible, and outdoor animals should have adequate fresh water in a shady place, and shelter from the sun.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.