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Think it’s hot now? The summer of 1936 was the real scorcher

July 23, 2011 at 07:54 AM

The State Journal-Register

It doesn’t matter if it’s the heat or the humidity. It’s hot.

Even with the misery index soaring, these 90-degree days are balmy compared to the summer of 1936 — the hottest U.S. summer on record. In July 1936, temperatures in North Dakota reached 121 degrees (more than halfway to boiling). The soil temperature at the four-inch level was 200 degrees. Dad talked about crops “burning up in the field.” It’s easy to see why.

Many all-time record highs across Illinois were set in July 1936, as temperatures topped 110 in several places. In Springfield, from July 4-15, it was above 100 degrees every day. The overnight low on July 13, 1936 was 84 degrees — the hottest night in Springfield history.

Air conditioning was just a rumor for the average person. People slept on their porches because it was so hot inside. You could fry an egg on the dashboard of any car that was sitting in the sun. There was nothing to do but sweat it out.

This may not be the summer of ’36, but it still isn’t the best time to get down out of the wind somewhere, fire up the chainsaw and cut firewood. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are real threats to people working outside, and to those engaged in outdoor recreational activities.

Both heat exhaustion and heatstroke can affect people who are unaccustomed to being outside for prolonged periods in hot, humid weather. The symptoms of heat exhaustion can come on fast and may include profuse sweating, muscle cramps and cool, clammy skin. Many people get dizzy.

If you’re outside and experience any of those symptoms, grab some shade. Sit down and rest for 15 minutes and drink some water as soon as you can.

You can head off heat exhaustion by taking rest breaks even when you think you don’t need them. Take a water bottle or water jug with you. This isn’t the time of year to search for a cool drink when you start to feel lightheaded. Drink water before you start to feel thirsty.

Heatstroke is life threatening. Victims may become confused, begin to hallucinate or even lose consciousness. Their skin will be hot and dry. A heatstroke victim’s body will lose the ability to cool itself. This is serious trouble.
A heatstroke victim needs medical attention as soon as possible. Call 911 immediately.

In the meantime, the victim should be moved to a cooler place, even if it’s only out of the sun, and given some water if he or she is capable of swallowing it. If you have anything you can use as a fan, get some air moving across the victim.

It’s hot outside, but you don’t have to hole up indoors as long as you’re careful. This may not be the summer of ’36, but it’s still hot enough to hurt you if you don’t pay attention.

Contact George Little at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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