Thursday may be one of the hottest days ever recorded in Fort Wayne.
The National Weather Service is forecasting a high of 105 degrees, just one degree cooler than the hottest days in weather service records. Temperatures of 106 were recorded once each in the summers of 1988, 1936 and 1934.
The weather service also is warning of “critical fire danger” Thursday.
“Very hot temperatures in the lower to middle 100s, combined with low relative humidity around 20 percent and strong, gusty west winds will lead to a critical fire danger risk Thursday afternoon,” said a bulletin from the weather service Wednesday afternoon.
Amid the heat, there's an important consolation.
“The humidity has been down drastically,” said Greg Shoup, meteorologist with NewsChannel 15. “The dew point is so low that it's almost a desert-like climate.”
In this drought, the dew point has been as low as 36 degrees recently, compared with the 60-65 degree dew points more typical in July and August.
“Anything above 70 is considered oppressive,” Shoup said.
Even though low humidity makes triple-digit temperatures more bearable, it also tends to prolong a drought, because weather systems that bring rain need more moisture in the air to regenerate, he said.
Be careful to beat the heat
Representatives of both Lutheran Hospital and Parkview Regional Medical Center say the hospitals are ready to treat anyone suffering ill effects from the heat.
“What's interesting about 2012 is that it's been very hot off and on since March. Much like driving on ice for the first time each winter, we all may need a day or two to remember how to stay safe in the heat. At this point, many of the lessons we've already learned about beating the heat, including drinking plenty of fluids before we go outside, getting enough rest and eating lighter meals, have made their way back into most of our daily routines,” said Geoff Thomas, a spokesman for Lutheran Hospital.
During periods of extremely hot weather, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health advises people to:
•Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
•Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies.
•Drink from two to four cups of water every hour while working or exercising outside and remind others to drink extra fluid as well.
•Avoid strenuous exertion on hot days. If you must do arduous activity, do it during the coolest time of the day, usually the morning or evening.
•Stay indoors as much as possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sun. Try to go to a public building with air conditioning each day for several hours. Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device.
•Watch infants carefully and check on elderly neighbors or relatives often. Young children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Check on those most at risk twice a day.
Cooling centers open
The city of Fort Wayne is opening cooling centers Thursday and keeping them open at least through Friday. The weather service forecast calls for highs of 98 on Friday, 98 on Saturday and 96 on Sunday.
Cooling centers will be located at The Community Center, 233 W. Main St.; the Jerry Fox Lifetime Sports Academy, at the McMillen Park Golf Clubhouse; and the Public Safety Academy, 7602 Patriot Crossing.
The Community Center will be open on Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Friday from 9 a.m. o 4:30 p.m., and the Lifetime Sports Academy will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday.
The Public Safety Academy will be open Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
In addition, the Cooper Center, 2300 Clinton and Lafayette, and Jennings Center, 1330 McCulloch Street, will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.
“I encourage residents to be good neighbors and check on those with health conditions or shut-ins who may need some assistance," Mayor Tom Henry said Wednesday in a news release on the cooling centers.
The high temperature likely today doesn't have electrical companies sweating yet, but they do have some energy-saving advice.
Northeastern REMC, which serves northeast Indiana, including portions of Allen and Whitley counties, posted on its Facebook page Tuesday a request for customers to cut back on electric use “as much as possible between the hours of 5-8 p.m.” It offered tips to keep electric use down such as doing dishwashing and laundry late in the evening or early in the morning.
With recent temperatures in the 90s, Indiana Michigan Power isn't worried about overloading its capacity, but “we always encourage our customers to use energy wisely,” said spokesman Dave Mayne. Even when I&M set a record for capacity last July 21, it used 4,837 megawatts, but it has the capacity to generate 5,900 megawatts, he said. Customers can keep light-blocking shades down, especially on south-facing windows, to help lower their energy use, he said.
Also, turning up the thermostat from 72 to 76 degrees will make a difference on their bills. Every 1 degree change results in a 3 percent savings, Mayne said.
And drivers shouldn't panic that their vehicle's air conditioning is on the fritz because it's not as cool as it normally is. “The heat is zapping the cold air,” said Josh Lainhart, service advisor at Vorderman Motor Werks, whose seen increased business and questions about drivers AC feeling less cool or stop working. Keep an eye, or hand probably in this case, on the vehicle's AC to see if it's a continuing problem. Freon can evaporate, but vehicles from 1995 and later can have their systems recharged. However, systems in older cars can be expensive to replace the Freon on, because it's considered a controlled substance, Lainhart said.
Caution for pets
Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control reminded animal owners to bring pets into an air-conditioned area of their homes. Fans are also helpful where air-conditioning is unavailable.
Animals must have a shady, sheltered place to rest and quantities of fresh water must be available at all times in containers that cannot be spilled. Pet owners are further cautioned that it is a violation of city ordinance to leave any animal unattended in a vehicle when the conditions, in that vehicle, would constitute a health hazard to the animal.
Any animal found by the shelter to be left in conditions that pose an immediate health hazard to the animal will be taken directly to Animal Care and Control for its safety. A written notice will be provided for the owner to claim their pet from the shelter. Heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid pulse, a staggering gait and vomiting are signs that your pet may be suffering from heat stress. Contact a veterinarian immediately.