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Summer arrives, Southland broils

June 22, 2007|David Pierson | Times Staff Writer

Summer officially began Thursday, but credit Southern California's dry spell for already taking some of the fun out of it.

A red flag warning was issued in the mountain areas because of high heat, wind gusts and low humidity -- ideal conditions for wildfire, officials said.

The warning was lifted Thursday night after winds died down, but meteorologists say dry brush and no rain in the forecast for the near future make the region a potential tinder stick.

"Conditions are favorable for a rapid spread of fire," said Steve Vanderburg, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in San Diego.

"As long as people are careful, there's nothing to be concerned about. There's no reason for a fire to start naturally because we don't expect thunderstorms. But people have to be careful when having a barbecue. They can't throw cigarettes out of the car into dry brush," Vanderburg said.

Southern California is experiencing one of its driest seasons. Just 3.2 inches of precipitation has been recorded since July 1. The normal rainfall average is 15.1 inches.

Vanderburg expects temperatures this summer to be close to historical averages but added there was also a chance it could be warmer.

The summer solstice officially occurred at 11:06 a.m. Temperatures on Thursday reflected the new season, reaching the mid- to upper 90s in the warmer valley areas. However, a dip of three to five degrees is expected over the weekend.

Forecasters say that this summer could bring heat waves similar to those that hit the state last year. More than 140 people died from the heat, according to a recent state report.

The report, from the Department of Health Services, found that most of the victims were elderly, poor and frail. About 46% of them lived alone, the study found.

The majority of the victims died of heat stroke, the study found, usually after several days of severe heat. Many of the victims either didn't have air conditioners in their living quarters or for some reason didn't use them.

The report noted that some victims appeared to be using fans to stay cool. But officials said that in several have waves -- including the deadly 1995 event in Chicago -- fans proved not to be effective for cooling.

Many of the victims also didn't have people regularly checking in with them, the study found.



Hot weather health tips

California experienced a record-setting heat wave last summer. More than 140 people -- most of them elderly -- died of heat-related causes. Here are some hot weather health tips involving three common heat-related illnesses:

Heat stroke

Warning signs:

* An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees Fahrenheit)

* Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)

* Rapid, strong pulse

* Throbbing headache

* Dizziness

* Nausea

* Confusion

* Loss of consciousness

What to Do:

* Call for emergency assistance.

* Get the victim to a shady area.

* Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods are available.

* Monitor body temperature, and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102 F.

* If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call a hospital emergency room for further instructions.

* Do not give the victim fluids to drink.

* Get medical assistance as soon as possible.

* Sometimes a victim's muscles will begin to twitch uncontrollably as a result of heat stroke. If this happens, keep the victim from injuring himself, but do not place any object in the mouth and do not give fluids. If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the victim on his or her side.

Heat exhaustion

Warning signs:

* Heavy sweating

* Paleness

* Muscle cramps

* Tiredness

* Weakness

* Dizziness

* Headache

* Nausea or vomiting

* Fainting

* The skin may be cool and moist

* The victim's pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow.

What to Do

Cooling measures that may be effective include the following:

* Cool, nonalcoholic beverages

* Rest

* Cool shower, bath or sponge bath

* An air-conditioned environment

* Lightweight clothing

Heat cramps

Warning signs:

* Muscle pains or spasms -- usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs -- that may occur in association with strenuous activity.

* If the victim has heart problems or is on a low-sodium diet, get medical attention for heat cramps.

What to do:

* Stop all activity, and sit quietly in a cool place.

* Drink clear juice or a sports beverage.

* Do not return to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps subside because further exertion may lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

* Seek medical attention for heat cramps if they do not subside in one hour.

Severe sunburn

Warning Signs:

* Red, painful, and abnormally warm skin

* Fluid-filled blisters

* Severe pain

What to do:

* Consult a doctor if sunburn, regardless of severity, affects an infant younger than 1 year of age or if the above symptoms are present.

* Apply cold compresses or immerse the sunburned area in cool water.

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