Would you rather ... Miserably cold or miserably hot? Heat, humidity hit hard

“It seemed as though Minnesota was literally thrown into a deep freezer, with Mother Nature hoping to save us and cook us in the summer,” was my lede five months ago when a polar vortex hit the area and plunged us into below zero air temperatures and wind chills.

And now that we’re sufficiently thawed out, Mother Nature is firing up the grill and cooking us with high heat and humidity. 

Welcome to Minnesota.

Temperatures reached the mid-80s and into the 90s by last Friday. Heat indices (temperature and dew points combined) remained around the 90s and 100s during the week.

Though Minnesota did not have any heat warnings issued, Houston and other counties close to the Iowa border felt the heat.

The southeastern region of Minnesota did have flash flood watches issued due to already saturated areas. 

Rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches and higher localized amounts were possible due to potential severe thunderstorms from Wednesday to Thursday last week.

Both nights brought thunderstorms to the area, dumping about an inch and a half of rain on Spring Grove Wednesday night and more Thursday night, which cancelled the second act of Ye Olde Opera House’s production of “Godspell.”

The National Weather Service in La Crosse issued a flood warning for Houston County. The warning also said the worst flooding was occuring along the Kickapoo River in Wisconsin. 

Mudslides and water-covered roads had been reported, but as of Friday morning, only County Road 21 in Houston County had been reported as closed due to a washout.

Como Falls Park in Hokah was flooded out again by Thompson Creek.

Friday brought an excessive heat warning to the area with a daytime temperature of 90 degrees and humidity levels of 89% and rising.

Heat indices reached nearly 104 degrees.

The heat is due to the upper-level high pressure moving from the Rockies to central U.S., according to the Weather Channel.

Excessive heat watches, heat advisories and excessive heat warnings were issued for the entire states of Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Arkansas and parts of southern Wisconsin, Ohio, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky and Louisana.

Extreme heat events are defined as lasting two to three days of high heat and humidity with temperatures above 90 degrees, according to ready.gov, a public service campaign to promote preparedness from the Department of Homeland Security.

Temperatures in those states were well above 90 degrees, and even though Minnesota only hit the 90s once last week, the humidity was enough to chase kids to the pool, dogs to the river and most people to air conditioning.

The Weather Channel also noted extreme heat episodes claimed 108 lives in 2018 in the U.S., which was more than any other weather phenomenon.

By this week, temperatures were forecasted to be cooler and drier thanks to the jet stream taking a southward plunge, the Weather Channel said.

With two weeks left in July, a month of August and a few steamy weeks in September, here is a good reminder of hot weather safety tips:

In an extreme heat event, your body works extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.

Older adult, children and ill or overweight people are at greater risk of heat-related illnesses.

Heat-related illnesses include heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat cramp symptoms include muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms or legs. Find a cooler location, remove excess clothing, take sips of cool sports drinks (such as Gatorade). Seek medical help if the cramps do not go away.

Heat exhaustion includes signs like heavy sweating, paleness, cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting or fainting. In addition to the same treatment as heat cramps, taking a cool bath is also an option here. 

Finally, heat stroke is the most serious of heat-related illnesses. This occurs when the body temperature is above 103 degrees; the skin is red, hot and dry with no sweat; rapid, strong pulse; dizziness, confusion or unconsciousness. Get medical help immediately and cool down with available methods until medical help arrives.

If you are under an extreme heat warning, you should: find air conditioning, avoid strenuous activities, watch for heat-related illnesses, wear lightweight and light color clothing, check on family members and neighbors, drink plenty of fluids and most importantly, never leave people, babies and kids or pets in a closed car, even just for a few minutes or a “quick trip” in.

People should also be wary of fans, as they create airflow and a false sense of comfort, but do not reduce body temperature.

Energy-saving tips

MiEnergy encourages its customers in southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa to do the “summer shift,” which is not a new dance move (but if you want to choreograph it, go ahead).

Electric use should be reduced from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. If customers abide that time period, MiEnergy can keep rates affordable by purchasing less power when electricity is in high demand and more expensive, according to their website.

They suggest five ways to help reduce electrical use:

Set the thermostate to 78 degress when no one is home.

Delay a load of laundry until after 7 p.m., using cold water if possible. Or start laundry in the morning and dry clothes outside on a clothesline or inside on a stick dryer.

Run your dishwasher before 11 a.m. and after 7 p.m.

Shut off lights when not in use.

Enjoy lunch and supper meals that don’t require a stove/oven or microwave to prepare.

Stay cool out there and remember, the winter solstice is a mere five months away.