LAURINBURG — There is little doubt that it is July in Scotland County.
Temperatures have been hovering in the mid to upper 90’s all week and according to the National Weather Service in Raleigh, it is only going to get hotter this weekend.
Today the temperature will hit a balmy 99 with the heat index topping out at around 104, before lowering to 103 in the early evening.
Saturday the heat index is supposed to be an unbearable 106, which is forecasted to “cool” down to 105 in the early evening.
Health officials are urging people — especially young children, older adults, and those on certain medications — to use caution during the hottest times of the day.
“People may not often think about it but extreme heat can have devastating effects on health,” Dr. Nicole Lurie, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services assistant secretary for preparedness and response, said in a statement. “Recognizing the signs of heat stress and knowing what to do can save a life.”
People suffering from heat stress may experience heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale, and clammy skin; fast, weak pulse; and nausea or vomiting. Early signs include muscle cramps, heat rash, fainting or near-fainting spells, and a pulse or heart rate greater than 100.
Victims should be moved to a cooler location to lie down. Apply cool, wet cloths to the body especially to head, neck, arm pits and upper legs near the groin area where combined 70 percent of body heat can be lost; and have the person sip water. They should remain in the cool location until recovered with a pulse heart rate is well under 100 beats per minute.
Signs of the most severe heat-related illness, heat stroke, include a body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit; hot, red, dry or moist skin; rapid and strong pulse; and altered mental status which can range from confusion and agitation to unconsciousness. Call 911 immediately and take steps to cool the person.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said there have been about 655 emergency department visits across the state for heat related illness were reported from June 2 to July 2.
Kate Murphy, Senior Manager of Media Relations, said Scotland County had approximately 72 heat related illness emergency department visits during the warm months (May-September).
“It is important to remember these are the most severe cases,” said Murphy. “Most people do not go to the emergency department, but rest or visit a family physician instead. Therefore, this is likely an underestimate of the burden of heat illness.”
The most common reasons given when visiting the ER were landscaping, construction work and roofing. Also working in a building without air conditioning. Those most at risk are the homeless, those without air conditioning in the home, and those without personal transportation.
To get some relief from the heat, cooling centers are now open throughout the county.
No one had used the Wagram Recreation/Active Living Center, one of three cooling centers in the county earlier this week, but they could begin filling up as temperatures creep up.
“But with the turn in the temperature this week we are expecting people to come in,” said Kisha Williams, Wagram recreation supervisor .
Williams said anyone who is able to get to the center and is self sufficient is welcome to stay as long as they want. The center is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesdays-Fridays and from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays.
Children are welcome as well, but must be supervised by a parent or guardian. Water and ice are also available.
“They are welcome to sit as long as they want. We have free wi-fi, so if they have a mobile or wireless device they may use it while here,” she said.
Scotland Memorial Library Director Leon L. Gyles said there was a slight increase Tuesday in visiting the library, another cooling center.
“We’ve had a number of people who have come in to take advantage because of the heat,” Gyles said.
His advice to those who need to find a cool place to be, “just get through the door. We’re here for the community.”
The library is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturdays.
Scottish Pines, nursing center on Johns road in Laurinburg, is the third local cooling center.
Church Community Services is also trying to help residents stay cool. As of Thursday, the charity had 10 fans, nine of them had been given away and the last one was promised to someone for pick up on today. The organization has given away 30 fans since May.
Church Community Services Director Leslie Womack said the Church Community Services has been receiving 20-inch box fans, which can be purchased at Wal-Mart for around $15. Donations are still being accepted.
“Those work because you are able to put them in a window,” she said.
To qualify, residents must present a current light bill and not received a fan last year.