I don’t always wear underwear. When I’m in the heat, especially, I can’t wear it. Like, if I’m wearing a flower dress, why do I have to wear underwear? —Naomi Campbell
My alarm went off, as always, at 4:00 AM this morning. I groaned quietly, kissed the back of Kat’s neck and got out of bed, dressing in the dark so as to not bother anyone.
The dog was waiting, as always. He hears the alarm, too, and is anxious for me to put on my shoes and snap the leash to his harness. He’s been here a month, but our morning walks are already a matter of ritual. He shakes himself and we’re ready to go.
I check the weather forecast, as always. 70 degrees. 30% chance of isolated thunderstorms after 7 this morning. Shit. I have 120 pounds of concrete mix sitting in the yard. I’ll have to move that when we get back.
We start our walk with Belvedere’s nose to the ground, as always. The neighbor’s security light pops on as we pass but the dog doesn’t flinch. He’s more interested in the scent of a feral cat that roams the area each night. The cat can’t be too big; we see its muddy paw prints on the car each morning. In the distant, lightening flashes. We probably won’t actually get any rain at our house. Most weather goes around us.
This is summer, and, as always, we’re beginning to feel the heat. 92 is the forecasted high today, and as someone who grew up in Oklahoma, my instinctive reaction is to think, “Aw, that ain’t nothing but good swimming weather.” But 92 when I was a kid wasn’t the same as 92 is now. The only air pollution we had to worry about then was the fragrance that came from the feedlot when the wind was out of the South. Heat and humidity were a thing, but rarely did they actually kill anyone.
Things are different now. Heat is the enemy. Now, the National Weather Service issues air quality warnings. I saw the orange band across the top of the forecast early and knew what it had to be. Here’s this morning’s statement (the caps are normal for NWS statements; they’re not actually shouting at you):
INZ047-110000- MARION- INCLUDING THE CITY OF...INDIANAPOLIS 256 PM EDT THU JUN 9 2016 ...A KNOZONE ACTION DAY HAS BEEN DECLARED... THE OFFICIALS AT THE OFFICE OF SUSTAINABILITY FOR THE CITY OF INDIANAPOLIS HAVE CALLED FOR A KNOZONE ACTION DAY ON FRIDAY...JUNE 10...FOR THE FOLLOWING INDIANA COUNTIES... MARION. A KNOZONE ACTION DAY MEANS THAT A COMBINATION OF THE HIGH TEMPERATURES...LIGHT WINDS AND OTHER FACTORS ARE EXPECTED TO PRODUCE CONDITIONS WHERE HIGH LEVELS OF OZONE EMISSIONS MAY EXCEED FEDERALLY MANDATED STANDARDS. HERE ARE SOME RECOMMENDED ACTIONS THAT THE PUBLIC CAN TAKE TO REDUCE OZONE FORMING EMISSIONS. RIDE THE BUS INSTEAD OF TAKING YOUR CAR. CAR-POOL WITH A FRIEND OR CO-WORKER. REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF TIME SPENT IN DRIVE THRU LANES. POSTPONE FILLING OR TOPPING OFF YOUR GAS TANK UNTIL AFTER DARK. PUT OFF MOWING YOUR LAWN UNTIL AFTER 600 PM.
All this because of a little heat. What wasn’t a big deal 40 or 50 years ago is monumental now. When we were kids, we could go out and play all day, every day, and the only time our parents worried about the weather affecting us adversely was when there were tornadoes in the area. Today, however, we’ll be taking specific action to protect the kids from harm: we’re leaving the county and heading for a quiet state park. They’ll be able to play outside without having to worry about breathing bad air.
Tomorrow is a different story, though. The anticipated high temperature for tomorrow is 96°F which means NWS will almost certainly release another air quality warning, but tomorrow is the annual Pride parade. We can’t miss that, for a number of reasons. That means we’ll have to make some adjustments to make sure the experience is safe and enjoyable for the kids. Come to think of it, you would probably do well to follow some of the same suggestions for yourself.
When feeling the heat, here are some do’s and don’ts for staying alive:
- DO drink plenty of water. We’ll be carrying 8 oz bottles of the stuff to keep everyone hydrated. Hydration is always an issue in the heat, but under these conditions it is critical.
- DON’T drink only soda, coffee or alcohol, all of which dehydrate the body. Sure, they’re tasty, but they’ll leave you panting along the side of the road.
- DO wear clothing that is light textured if you’re in a place where clothing is required. This is a great time to show off your swimsuit.
- DON’T forget the sunscreen. Please. Always. Skin cancer is no joke and incidents have risen dramatically in the past 20 years. The shine makes your body look good, anyway.
- DO eat a lot of fresh fruit. Strawberries, peaches, apples, and bananas are what we’re having for breakfast.
- DON’T eat a lot of processed sugars. That stuff is bad for you any day, but in the heat, they zap your strength and can make you violently ill. Stay away.
- DO plan activities at either end of the day. Before 10 AM and after 6 PM are best.
- DON’T expose you or anyone else (including pets) to extreme heat conditions any longer than absolutely necessary.
- DO take your pets out for short, limited walks.
- DON’T leave your pets tethered outside, even if they have shelter and water. The heat affects them even more than it does us.
I’m not one to jump on an alarmist bandwagon, but this heat is serious business. Already, the Best Protected Great Barrier Reef Corals Are Now Dead, and there’s a ’99 Percent Chance’ 2016 Will Be Hottest Year on record. The easy-going summers of the past, where we could just sit in the shade and drink lemonade without a care in the world are, unfortunately, non-existent for anyone who lives in a city of any size. I’m not sure those out in the country are as safe as they once were.
Summer is here. We’re going to feel some heat and, like it or not, we can’t just run around naked all over the place. Take some precautions. Use some common sense. There’s still plenty of fun to be had, we just have to be careful about when and how we do it.