A sizzling summer heat wave pushed temperatures well into triple digits over the weekend and continued into this week with little relief on the horizon.
Newman resident Marge Carvalho, an observer for the National Weather Service, reported that the heat wave started in earnest with a high temperature of 106 Friday.
That number climbed to 109 on Saturday, and on both Sunday and Monday Carvalho reported a high temperature of 111 degrees.
The overnight hours offered little respite from the relentless heat, with low temperatures dipping only to the mid- to upper-70s after the heat wave set in.
In many regards, West Side dairy producer Rich Dyt told Mattos Newspapers, the overnight temperatures are as critical if not more so than the daytime highs when it comes to heat stress on cows.
“If you can get below 70 degrees overnight, it is not as bad even when it is over 100 degrees (during the daytime),” said Dyt. “The main thing to watch is the overnight lows.”
The impact on Holsteins becomes more pronounced after three days of hot temperatures and warm nights, he added.
“We have not noticed a huge drop yet, but we will probably notice a decrease in milk production today,” Dyt commented.
An extended heat wave will also result in loss of breeding and increase mortality within the herd, Dyt said.
He said misters and fans are used to keep the cows as cool as possible, and that water troughs are drained, cleaned and refilled daily to ensure the herd has a fresh water supply.
Newman dairyman John Toste said Monday that he has seen a drop in milk production.
While his dairy does the best it can to comfort the cows, Toste said, they do not want to eat in the hot weather so production declines.
He, too, is anticipating difficult days ahead if the forecasts for an extended heat wave hold true.
“It is going to be a tough stretch,” Toste commented. “We look at the weather every day, and we hope we get a breeze. When there is no air movement is when it really affects the animals.”
Ag workers also take precautions against the heat.
“We start a little earlier and just do the necessities,” Toste said of his employees. “We try to send everybody home and keep everybody hydrated.”
Jim Jasper, president of Stewart & Jasper, said that “just like everybody else, we try to provide as much shade as we can and keep them hydrated. If anybody starts to feel a little woozy or something we will take them inside and let them rest.”
Agriculture employers and their workers are well-versed in coping with the valley heat, Jasper reflected.
A new concern with this heat wave, he said, is the possibility of rolling blackouts that would temporarily bring the facilities to a stop.
“We would just come to a halt,” Jasper stated.
Public works crews and school maintenance staff members are among those working in the heat.
Local cities and school districts have taken a number of steps in response to the extreme heat.
Newman public works crews are starting their day earlier at 6 a.m., said Perfecto Millan, public works superintendent, and tackle any major repairs or maintenance early in the day.
“They have water with them, and three or four places where they can go to cool off,” he said. “Toward the end of the day, we (work) inside.”
Regular water breaks are also the protocol for public works employees in Gustine. They also will delay non-emergency projects, said Dennis Castro, public works superintendent.
“It’s just too hot. We will try to do different jobs that are more in the shade,” he stated.
The same strategy is in place in the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District.
“We have a protocol where we allow maintenance and grounds staff to come in an hour earlier and be off by 2:30 at the latest,” said Matt Vargas, the district’s director of maintenance and operations. “We are taking extra water breaks and trying to do all of our outside work before 10 a.m.”
Russell Hazan, director of maintenance and operations for Gustine Unified, said a similar practice is in place there. “We are not working outside past 10 a.m. unless it is an emergency,” he stated. “We have lots of other things that we can accomplish indoors.”
Michael Courtney, director of operations for West Side Community Ambulance, said medics responded to “a couple” of heat-related calls over the weekend.
Courtney said those who have to work outside in the heat should do so only for brief periods of time before finding a cooling location, and can take steps such as putting a cool towel around their neck.
Common symptoms of heat exhaustion, he explained, are light headedness, blurred vision or general weakness. Those experiencing symptoms are urged to get into a cool environment, drink room temperature water and if necessary apply a cold pack or equivalent (such as a bag of frozen peas) to their neck or armpits.
If unsure whether medical attention is required, Courtney said, call 911 and medics will respond to evaluate the individual.
According to CDC guidelines, medical assistance should be sought if an individual is vomiting, symptoms worsen or symptoms persist longer than an hour.
Signs of a more serious heat stroke, Courtney said, include an individual not thinking clearly or not acting normally, throbbing headache and intense nausea.
Another tell-tale sign, he said, is an individual who is no longer perspiring in the heat.
“If you start to get flushed, dry skin you are approaching a heat stroke versus heat exhaustion,” Courtney said.
Anybody experiencing symptoms of heat stroke should call 911, Courtney emphasized.
According to CDC guidelines, a person suffering from heat stroke should be moved to a cooler place and given cool cloths or a cool bath to help lower temperature. The CDC advises against giving the person anything to drink.
Those without air conditioning can take a number of steps to stay as cool as possible, said Courtney and Newman Fire Chief Keith Bowen, who is also a paramedic.
Those measures include staying well-hydrated with water, closing shades and blinds during the day to keep as much heat out of the home as possible, using fans, opening windows overnight to cool the home as much as possible and closing them when the temperature begins to heat up the next morning, applying cold bags to the neck or armpits, taking a cool bath and dressing in light clothing.
Community cooling centers and stores can also offer respite from the heat, Bowen noted.
If at any point when attempting to cool somebody they start to shiver “they have gone too far and dropped their body temperature too low,” Bowen advised.
He also underscored the importance of friends, neighbors and family members looking out for others who may be at risk during a heat wave.
“Make sure you are watching your elderly population. Some medications can enhance those (heat-related) complications,” Bowen said. “I encourage everyone to check in on your neighbors, and support each other.”