Friday, August 15, 2014

Unforgiving Arkansas weather

By Airman 1st Class Scott Poe
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Arkansas weather can sometimes be relentless, dishing out stifling heat, tornadoes, floods, lightning, high winds and damaging hail during the summer months. 

Arkansas has many heat and tornado-related weather threats.

According to the National Weather Service, heat is one of the most deadly weather-related occurrences. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are common during the summer season. The average high for Arkansas during June, July and August is right below or above 90 degrees.

“The people that are at a higher risk of heat exhaustion or stroke are people who work out on the flightline and people who are working outside a lot,” said Master Sgt. Albert Beckwith, a 19th Airlift Wing Safety ground safety technician. “To help prevent heat exhaustion and stroke, drink plenty of water and try to use proper work-rest cycles.”  

Beckwith stated that one should know the signs of heat exhaustion and stroke. Noticing the signs early can prevent serious medical issues later.

 The warning signs of heat exhaustion are heavy sweating, weakness, nausea, fainting, fast pulse and clammy skin. Heat stroke, the more serious of the two, has symptoms of hot dry or moist skin, red face, rapid and strong pulse, a high body temperature above 103 degrees and possible unconsciousness. This is a medical emergency. Call 911 immediately if you suspect a heat stroke.

Heat is not the only dangerous weather though. Recently Arkansas was the host to an EF-4 tornado that ripped through Mayflower and Vilonia killing 16 people. 

“During the spring months tornadoes are our biggest threat coupled with severe thunderstorms,” said Senior Airman Robert Cantu, a 19th Operations Support Squadron weather technician. “These storms can produce large hail and damaging winds greater than 50 knots.”

It is always good to know where a safe place is or where to go during a tornado warning.

 According to the American Red Cross, the safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement or safe room. If no underground shelter or safe room is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative. If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If you get caught in your car, you have two options. Stay in the car with the seat belt on and put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible. Or if you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

“We advise that everyone take the tornado siren seriously,” said Cantu. 

When the tornado sirens sound, it means the area is under an imminent threat. In other words, a tornado has been spotted or identified on radar.  Cantu said everyone should take the appropriate actions and remain in a safe place until the base intercom system (Giant Voice) has indicated the threat has passed.

Know what the forecast has in store so you can be ready and plan around it. The sirens don’t lie. Take cover when they sound. Stay hydrated and cool when hot weather heats up the Natural State.  

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