The Long, Hot and Fiery Summer of 2023
The oppressive heat wave that we’ve been suffering through in recent weeks has had a direct impact on the public. Unofficially, at least 3 deaths have been blamed on the excessive heat in Caddo Parish alone. That’s the word from Brad Bryant, the meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service in Shreveport. According to Bryant, whenever the heat index, better known by many as the “feels like” temperature, reaches at least 110 degrees then they issue an excessive heat warning, especially when the low temperature stays above 80-degrees. We hear a lot about heat exhaustion and heat stroke, when it comes to the effects of heat on the body. Bryant says heat exhaustion is best described as being overwhelmed by the heat outside, typically feeling fatigued and sweating profusely and having a difficult time cooling off and you need to take a break. When you get to the point of heat stroke the threat to your health reaches a critical level. “When you get to the point of heat stroke is maybe when you quit sweating, when you get so hot and you get so dehydrated, you quit sweating. And then your body temperature elevates and you start to deal with instead of hypothermia in the cold, you’re dealing with hyperthermia which can be a big threat to your life.”
The health risks associated with heat cannot be under-estimated. The danger can be deceiving at first because many people who consider themselves as healthy may not always take the threat seriously enough – and can find themselves in a high risk situation before they’re fully aware of the potential danger. In fact, some people may falsely believe they don’t have to worry about heat exposure too much. Bryant says this line of thinking can be all-too-dangerous. “The oppressive nature of the heat, people need to look out for themselves, look out for their neighbors. They need to be trying to limit the amount of time they’re spending outside, especially during the heat of the day, trying to find a source of shade, stay hydrated.”
Bryant says people are just looking for some timeline on when we’ll be done with this dangerous heat wave. But he says unfortunately – despite the promise of some rainfall on Friday and Saturday, the heat will remain above normal on those days – likely in the mid-to-upper 90s going into early next week. Bryant adds, “Hopefully this is the worst of it we’re experiencing right now and what we’ve experienced over the last week. But, I think we’ve thought that a couple times so far in this heat wave and it keeps reasserting itself. So, I don’t want people to think that this is nearly over. ” Bryant says the heat could persist well into the month of September, as the fire risk remains critical. Much of East Texas, along with northern and central Louisiana is in drought conditions. That’s put much of the area under what’s called a Red Flag Warning. Typically, that means relative humidity is at 25-percent or less, with sustained winds of 15 miles an hour. Bryant says they are urging people to take extra precautions and think safety first. “Advertising that out to the public that, look, you need to be really careful with any open flames or sparks. You definitely want to avoid just tossing lit cigarette butts out the car window. That’s a big source of wildfires starting inadvertently. You got to watch out for trucks going down the road. If they’ve got tow chains, and the tow chains are dragging on the ground. That creates sparks. You can get a lot of fires started that way.”
Bryant says this summer is shaping-up to be the hottest and driest conditions we have seen in this region since 2011. We are expected to see some showers and thunderstorms later this week. But Bryant cautions those storms can pose risks of their own, as well. “One of the things we’re a little bit worried about, if we do get some storms that start to form and they don’t have a lot of rain with them and they do have lightning, I mean that lightning can start fires. When you get in this kind of environment, if you don’t have a lot of rain with it to quickly mitigate that.”
According to figures provided by GOHSEP, the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, there have been 336 fires reported in August which have burned 45-hundred acres. That helps explain why the entire state is now under a burn ban, with some exceptions for agricultural and forestry burning. And during this extreme heat wave, Bryant says we’ve been very close to setting an extremely old and extremely high record for daytime temperatures. “We’ve actually flirted with setting the all-time, or at least tying the all-time daily high temperature for Shreveport, which is a record that dates back to the early 1900s. And that record is 110. And we’ve gotten to 109 twice in the past week.”
As for the extreme heat wave during 2011, the temperature reached at least 100-degrees 63 times in Shreveport. That included 15 days in a row. So far, this summer, including Tuesday, we’ve hit 100 degrees 25 times, including the current streak of 10 days in a row, more 100-degree days expected. That said, the rain and thunderstorms forecast for Friday and Saturday could bring some relatively cooler temperatures. But the operative word there is “relatively” cooler. That means we could see highs in the mid-to-upper 90s by early next week.