Use extreme caution

Friday, June 29, 2012

It gets hot every summer. It is not necessarily surprising that temperatures in the coming days will reach triple digits, though we could break several records in the coming days.

What is more unusual is how dry it's been.

Much of the region is under "extreme" drought conditions. Unlike most years, when high humidity has added to the miserable heat, this year there is little moisture in the air. And the area has seen scant rainfall in 2012. An Associated Press report last week said scientists have determined in many places in Missouri the soil is dry five feet deep.

This, of course, is horrible news for farmers, who just last year endured record floods.

But the current weather pattern is a short-term concern for everyone, not just farmers, particularly with fireworks season upon us.

Many smaller communities have smartly canceled their fireworks displays this year and have banned fireworks altogether. In Cape Girardeau, personal fireworks discharges are being discouraged; city officials said enforcement of a short-term fireworks ban would not be feasible. Cape Girardeau and Jackson both plan on having their fireworks displays but promise extra vigilance.

For those who do set off fireworks, please be careful. Hose down the area before setting them off. Have a fire extinguisher handy. Let's not let carelessness with fireworks cause a disaster. Also smokers should be careful on how and where they dispose of cigarette butts.

As we head into these extreme heat conditions, please also be mindful of the dangers of prolonged exposure. If you know someone who does not have air conditioning, check in with that person often. Consider taking him or her to a movie or shopping or to the library for relief during the afternoon. High heat affects the elderly and very young the most. If you've got children participating in outdoor activities, consider soaking a towel and putting it in a cooler with ice. Of course make sure they have plenty of fluids available. And don't forget the sunscreen.

If you do not have air-condition, the Red Cross, in partnership with the city of Cape Girardeau, has a cooling center open at the Osage Centre, 1625 N. Kingshighway. Hours of operation are today, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 9 p.m.; Monday and Tuesday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The center will close at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

It's always hot in this summer. But these are extreme and dangerous conditions. Please be cautious.

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