High Temperatures Combined with Increased Humidity Could Be Dangerous to At-Risk Populations, Including the Elderly and Young Children
Heat Advisory Threshold Lowered to 95 Degrees Fahrenheit to Help Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo Wednesday cautioned all New Yorkers to prepare for an extended period of dangerous heat and humidity, which is expected to begin this weekend and last through Monday, July 2. To avoid heat-related illnesses, the Governor is encouraging individuals to limit strenuous outdoor physical activity during this time period, especially for people who are more susceptible, including young children, the elderly, those who exercise outdoors, those involved in vigorous outdoor work, and those who have respiratory diseases such as asthma. At-risk populations should take necessary steps to stay cool as temperatures rise.
"With a stretch of extreme heat and humidity ahead of us, I urge residents and visitors to take the necessary precautions to keep themselves and their families safe," Governor Cuomo said. "I encourage all New Yorkers to take advantage of state cooling stations, pools and waterbodies across the Empire State and to be mindful of air quality and other health risk factors to ensure a safe, enjoyable holiday weekend."
The National Weather Service is forecasting a significant heat wave beginning Friday, June 29, and lasting until at least Monday, July 2, with air quality deterioration possible. The combination of high temperatures and humidity will result in heat indices ranging from the mid-90s and up to 104 degrees, especially away from the coast line, in urban areas, and in lower elevations and valleys. Additionally, showers and possible thunderstorms tonight into Thursday may produce heavy rainfall, resulting in isolated flooding of urban and poor-drainage areas and small streams.
Recently, at the Governor's direction, the Department of Health, in collaboration with the National Weather Service, has lowered the temperature for alerting people to the risk of heat-related illness during hot days and heat waves from 100 degrees to 95 degrees. DOH research, funded by NASA, showed that emergency department visits and hospital admissions from heat increase significantly on days when the heat index reaches 95 degrees or higher. The risk of heat stress, dehydration, renal illness, cardiovascular illness, and death increases for up to four days after a heat wave.
Cooling Centers and Swimming Locations
Additionally, the New York State Department of Health has created an online list of cooling centers where people can cool down on days of extreme temperatures. A list of addresses and phone numbers for cooling centers shared by local health departments and emergency management offices in each region is available here. All pools and beaches across the New York State Park system are also open as an option for individuals to cool off during the hot days ahead.
Popular swimming locations include Jones Beach, Robert Moses and Sunken Meadow on Long Island; Denny Farrell Riverbank, Roberto Clemente Pools, and Gantry Plaza Spray Pad in New York City; Bear Mountain, Rockland Lake, Minnewaska, Lake Taghkanic, and Taconic (Copake and Rudd Pond) in the Hudson Valley; Grafton Lakes, Saratoga Spa (Victoria and Peerless Pools), and Moreau Lake in the Capital District; Delta Lake in the Mohawk Valley; Green Lakes and Verona Beach in Central New York; Taughannock Falls and Watkins Glen in the Southern Tier; Fair Haven and Hamlin Beach in the Finger Lakes; and Fort Niagara, Evangola and Allegany (Quaker Area) in Western New York.
A complete list of all available swim locations and places to cool off is available here. Additional swimming opportunities are available at many DEC-operated campgrounds in the Adirondack and Catskill parks. A complete listing of all swimming opportunities at DEC campgrounds can be found here.
Air Quality Precautions
The Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Health are monitoring forecasts and are prepared to issue Air Quality Health Advisories for regions of the state this weekend and early next week. Summer heat can lead to the formation of ground-level ozone, a major component of photochemical smog. Automobile exhaust and out-of-state emission sources are the primary sources of ground-level ozone and are the most serious air pollution problems in the northeast. This surface pollutant should not be confused with the protective layer of ozone in the upper atmosphere. Up-to-date air quality information, including ozone and Particulate Matter 2.5 levels, is available from the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Health. In addition, DEC has established a toll-free Air Quality Hotline that can be reached at 1-800-535-1345 to help inform the public about air quality alerts. Visit DEC's Air Quality Index forecast page for updated information.
All individuals, especially young children, those who exercise outdoors, those involved in vigorous outdoor work, and those who have respiratory disease such as asthma, should consider limiting strenuous outdoor physical activity when ozone levels are the highest (generally afternoon to early evening). When outdoor levels of ozone are elevated, going indoors will usually reduce your exposure. Individuals experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or coughing should consider consulting their doctor. Ozone levels generally decrease at night and can be minimized during daylight hours by curtailment of automobile travel and the use of public transportation where available.
Swimmers should keep in mind that swimming in lakes, rivers, and streams with water temperatures below 77 degrees can be dangerous and capable of causing hypothermia. Currently, Lake Ontario has reported temperatures near 54 degrees, Lake Erie has water temperatures between 65-70 degrees, and Lake Champlain has water temperatures of 62 degrees.
Boaters should make sure to take proper safety precautions. The New York State Parks Marine Services Bureau offers the following safety tips.
Boaters are reminded to practice safe and responsible boating, including:
- Wear a personal floatation device whenever they are on the water. State law requires that children under age 12 wear a personal flotation device while on a watercraft;
- Complete a safe boating course;
- Properly equip and inspect their vessel;
- Maintain a prudent speed;
- Refrain from mixing alcohol with boating; and
- Check the weather forecast before heading out on the water to learn about potential storms and seek immediate shelter on shore if thunder is audible.
People paddling canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards should know their abilities and take precautions when there are high or steady winds creating large waves, or when they are in strong currents. Paddlers in waters where there are motorboats should keep close to shorelines and out of main channels.
For more information about boating safety, including listings of boating safety courses, and marine recreation in New York State, click here.
Excessive heat is the leading cause of preventable, weather-related deaths each year, particularly among the elderly. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat causes more than 600 preventable deaths in the United States yearly. To help New Yorkers stay safe during excessive heat the Governor offered the following tips:
People Who Should Be Aware:
- Elderly persons and small children are mostly affected
- Persons with weight or alcohol problems are very susceptible to heat reactions
- Persons on certain medications or drugs
- Slow down on strenuous activity and exercise, especially during the sun's peak hours of 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Exercise should be done in the early morning between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.
- Eat less protein and more fruits and vegetables. Protein produces and increases metabolic heat, which causes water loss. Eat small meals, but eat more often. Do not eat salty foods
- Drink at least two to four glasses of water per hour during extreme heat, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid beverages containing alcohol or caffeine
- If possible, stay out of the sun and stay in air conditioning. The sun heats the inner core of your body, resulting in dehydration. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine, or go to a public building with air conditioning
- If you must go outdoors, wear sunscreen with a high sun protector factor rating (at least SPF 15) and a hat to protect your face and head. When outdoors, wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing. Cover as much skin as possible to avoid sunburn and over-warming effects of sunlight on your body
- Do not leave children, pets or those who require special care in a parked car or vehicle during periods of intense summer heat. Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can reach over 140 degrees Fahrenheit quickly. Exposure to such high temperatures can kill within a matter of minutes
- Make an effort to check on your neighbors during a heat wave, especially if they are elderly, have young children or have special needs
- Make sure there is enough food and water for pets
Know the Signs of Heat Related Illness:
Prolonged exposure to the heat can be harmful and potentially fatal. Call 911 if you or someone you know shows signs or symptoms of heat illness, including:
- Light headedness
- Muscle cramps
For more information on how to stay safe during periods of excessive heat, click here.
Additionally, Governor Cuomo recently announced that $3 million in federal funding was made available for New Yorkers with serious health issues through the Home Heating Assistance Program (HEAP) to receive assistance to purchase air conditioners. Cooling assistance will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Local departments of social services will accept applications through August 31, or until funding runs out.