Officials say Golden Triangle residents should avoid strenuous outdoor activities today and Thursday as the heat index could reach 105 degrees.
The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for most of northern Mississippi. Today’s highs are expected in the mid-90s, but the heat index — what it feels like when humidity is factored in with temperature — could reach 99 degrees by 1 p.m. and hit 105 degrees by 4 p.m., according to the forecast.
Thursday should yield similar temperatures, according to the NWS forecast.
Heat stroke, cramps and exhaustion is possible with prolonged exposure to high temperatures. The NWS classifies heat indexes exceeding 103 degrees as dangerous.
“In these situations, we always tell people not to get out between 2-6 p.m. If you have outdoor work that you need to do, try to get it done before lunch or at night,” said Starkville Fire Marshal Mark McCurdy. “If you must work during when it’s the hottest part of the day, hydration is the key. Drink plenty of fluids and take breaks as needed.
“Heat exhaustion is mild — we’ve all experienced it sometime or another. You’ll have a rapid pulse; you may start getting a headache and you’ll be really sweaty. That’s your body’s way of telling you to take a break and get out of the heat,” he added. “Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition when your core body temperature exceeds 105 degrees. You might approach someone that’s disoriented, vomiting and complaining of being hot, but their skin is dry to the touch. Go straight to the emergency room.”
Residents, McCurdy said, should also be mindful of the elderly, children and pets during the heat advisory and never leave them unattended in a vehicle.
“Say you run out to the store with your dog. You’re grabbing milk, so you figure you’ll only be there for five minutes. If you stop to talk with someone, the next thing you know you’ve been inside for 20 minutes. That dog is now in danger,” he said. “When the temperature is pushing 100 degrees outside, it’s boiling in that car.”
An increase in grass fires typically accompanies long stretches of sunny skies and increased temperatures, McCurdy said, but forecasts call for precipitation later this week.
A burn ban is not currently in effect for Starkville.
“People always ask us how firefighters handle the heat. We look at it like an athlete training for football in August in Mississippi. We have to get out and condition our bodies,” McCurdy said. “If we catch a structure fire call right now, it’s not like we can skip it because it’s too hot.”
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch