Here comes the heat

Travis Frasier takes a moment to rehydrate in the heat as he works on the construction site of The Kessler Collection's Grand Bohemian Hotel at Wentworth and Meeting streets. Saturday will start a stretch of extra-warm days.

Ice down and hydrate, here it comes.

With summer in full swing, Saturday begins three days of heat indices in the mid-100s, just below the 110 point where the National Weather Service starts to issue heat advisories. The asphalt will be too hot to go barefoot. The pavement will bake.

But while lifeguards and beachgoers are being cautioned about the dangers of hyperthermia and dehydration, chief of Charleston County EMS Don Lundy said most of the heat-related cases he sees have to do with people's current medical conditions.

"For example, people are dehydrated, allowing their medication levels to be different than they would be under normal circumstances," he said. "Certainly, heart problems and diabetes are two of the primary ones, but almost every medical issue is affected. We see an increase in medical problems when it's hot just because they don't step up on their fluids."

Lundy said responders are aware that calls come in more quickly on very hot days and prepare accordingly.

"Our crews are always aware of not staying very long at the hospital, turning the truck around to take the next call, staying spread out," he said.

The lifeguards are also proactive when it comes to heat, and the beaches are anticipating more big crowds - and more heat-related medical incidents - as the summer hits one its prime weekends. Isle of Palms County Park manager Cynthia Wilson said her staff is told to start hydrating at least a day before they work under the sun and to take advantage of the air-conditioned break rooms.

"We do have folks overheated and dehydrated throughout the summer," Wilson said. "We encourage lifeguards to talk to people on the beach and remind them to keep hydrated."

She said so far, the park has seen more people who have needed treatment for hyperthermia and dehydration than in the past few years because of higher temperatures earlier in the summer. The average temperature in June was three degrees higher than normal, according to the National Weather Service, Charleston.

As the summer goes on, humidity sets in and the heat seems to press like a hot wet blanket, so the perception is that August is the hottest summer month. But the average temperature in July is more than a degree warmer, according to the weather service.

Meanwhile, the morning cool temperature gradually climbs: It has been above normal most of the week, said Emily Timte of the weather service.

The good news is that after this weekend's extra-high heat indices, the Southeast has been forecast to be a little cooler than normal for the next two weeks by the national Climate Prediction Center. But don't get hopes up over a computer model: August overall is expected to be warmer than normal, according to the center.

But sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic remain cooler than normal so far. That's one reason why tropics are staying quiet. The air above the ocean is drier than normal, making it tougher for tropical cyclones to gather strength, and shear winds remain strong.

"At this point, the season looks to be quiet," said Phil Klotzbach of the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project.

There's a rule-of-thumb way to keep tabs on the prospect of tropical storms or hurricanes developing here: Watch the Pacific. When storms brew actively in that basin, as they are now, the Atlantic tends to stay quiet.

"Atlantic tropical cyclone activity tends to go opposite to Northeast Pacific activity," Klotzbach said. "This year, we've seen quite a bit of activity in this region already, which would be another factor pointing to a relatively benign hurricane season (in the Atlantic)."

Then he added the pointed hurricane specialist caution: "Of course, even if the forecast is correct and a quiet season occurs, it only takes that one storm to make it an active season for you."

Meanwhile, Charleston's normal summer weather pattern - heat, afternoon storms and cooler, humid nights - can be expected to continue for the next month.