Temperatures will be in the mid- to high 90s by this weekend and local officials are advising the public to stay inside when possible, but try not to overdo it on the AC.
Beginning Friday, the valley can expect a “pretty good little heatwave," said Cody Ledbetter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling. Saturday’s temperatures in the high 90s with a heat index above 100 will be the worst, he said, but a cold front on Monday will cool things down into the 80s.
“Doesn’t look to be nearly as hot that day,” he said.
When it’s hot out, electricity usage can soar as customers try to keep cool. To keep costs down, companies are advising customers to keep thermostats a little higher during peak usage hours.
For Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, which serves much of the Northern Shenandoah Valley, that’s during the hours of 4 and 8 p.m. this week. Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, which also serves a large part of the region, recommends easing back on the AC from 3 to 6 p.m. this week.
“Every little bit can matter,” said Preston Knight, public relations representative for SVEC.
“I know it can be a challenge for some people,” he said. “Just understand, because of the extreme heat, you just naturally use more electricity to keep your house cool.”
Some tips the companies offered for peak hours:
• Raise the thermostat to 78 degrees or higher.
• Wait until later in the evening to use hot water.
• Limit the use of heat-generating electronics including gaming systems.
• Cook on the grill instead of using a stove or oven.
• Keep dish-washing and clothes-washing to a minimum
Other general cost-saving methods Knight suggested are to turn off lights and ceiling fans when leaving the room or the house, and closing window blinds or curtains against the sun to keep homes cooler during the hottest time of the day.
“Those are the simple things, and those little things do add up,” he said. “Each degree can make a difference.”
SVEC’s Beat the Peak initiative asks customers to conserve energy through Thursday, and REC’s initiative runs through the weekend.
The Town of Front Royal’s Energy Services Department issued a request to residents on Wednesday for a voluntary reduction in electricity use, listing similar cost-saving methods including unplugging small appliances and electric chargers and turning off televisions, computers, radios and other electronic devices when they aren’t being used.
When it comes to chilling outside, the Virginia Health Department is offering precautions against sunburn and heat-related illness.
Some dangerous effects include dehydration and unnatural elevation of body temperature when the body can’t sweat enough to keep itself cool. In high humidity, sweat doesn’t evaporate as well, according to a news release from the Lord Fairfax Health District.
“Extreme heat is a leading cause of weather-related death in the United States,” the release states. “Staying cool, hydrated and informed can save lives.”
When it’s hot out, people should take the following precautions:
• If possible, stay inside. Consider canceling or postponing outdoor plans, especially if they involve physical exertion. Even two hours a day in AC significantly reduces the risk of heat-related illnesses.
• Take a cool shower or bath to cool off from the heat.
• Schedule any outdoor activities for the coolest parts of the day, like early morning, or stay in the shade. Sunlight and heat exposure are greatest between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
• Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. People should drink a quart of water for each hour spent outside in the heat.
• Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, which can increase fluid loss.
• Drink fruit juice or a sports beverage to replace salt and minerals lost from sweating, alternating with servings of water. (Consult a doctor if you’re on medications or a diet that restricts salt or fluid.)
• Remember to eat.
• Wear high-SPF sunscreen on all exposed skin, and reapply every two hours when swimming or sweating.
• Check on neighbors, especially the elderly.
• Stay informed by monitoring for heat-related notices issued by the National Weather Service.
Heat-related illness includes excessive sweating; cool, clammy skin; dizziness; fatigue; headache and muscle cramps. Use the “buddy system” if spending time outside to watch each other for signs of heat-related illness, and, if symptoms present, find a cool place indoors and get hydrated until symptoms resolve.
Seek medical attention immediately for signs of heatstroke: severe headache; warm, dry skin without sweating in spite of heat; and changes in mental status or behavior.
Following the death of a child in Richmond, reported Tuesday in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Health Department reminds residents not to leave children or pets alone in a car for any period of time.
On average, 38 children in the U.S. die each year in unattended cars, the National Weather Service reports on its website, www.weather.gov, citing information from the Department of Meteorology & Climate Science’s website, www.noheatstroke.org.
Since recording began in 1998, 816 children have died in unattended cars around the U.S., as of July 12. Tuesday’s death in Richmond raises the number to at least 817.
In Virginia, 26 children have died in unattended cars since 1998. Only Vermont, New Hampshire and Alaska haven’t reported any child deaths during that time. Though many of the deaths happen when temperatures are high, it doesn’t take a hot day for the temperature inside a car to rise to critical levels.
In May, a child died in a car in Lakewood Township, New Jersey. The temperature outside was 69.