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With no signs of relief, Oklahoma’s summer heat wave rivals Death Valley temperatures as the Biden-Harris Administration launches Heat.gov.
It is widely known that Oklahoma is considered Tornado Alley, and since 2010, 69 people have been killed by tornadoes in the state. However, this year’s summer swelter may prove to be a greater threat than twisters as the symptoms of climate change become more apparent. Heat-induced illness has led to more than 145 deaths in the past two decades in the Sooner state.
To put it in perspective, the highest temperature in Death Valley, California, on July 26 was 92 degrees; in Tulsa, it was 105, with the extreme temperature lingering above 100 degrees for over 8 hours.
When I was a kid, we could play outside in the summertime all day. If I were a kid today, you would have to beat me in order for me to go outside in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was not this damn hot outside for extended periods of time during the ‘80s and ‘90s.
— Nehemiah D. Frank (@nehemiahdfrank) July 16, 2022
Since July 13, scorching temperatures have continuously beat down the midwest at 100 degrees plus for weeks at a time. And as symptoms of heat exhaustion increase local 911 call volumes throughout the state and Midwest, Tulsa and Oklahoma City’s Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) continue to hospitalize patients due to heat-related illness.
“We know that the greatest weather-related cause of death and injury is heat,” Richard W. Spinrad, Ph.D. told The Black Wall Street Times. “We saw something more in the neighborhood of 1,500 deaths from heat-related consequences last year.”
Dr. Spinrad currently serves as head of President Joe Biden’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric [research] Administration (NOAA) and says the Biden-Harris Administration is ensuring Americans combatting high temperatures have the right tools and information to protect themselves, their families and communities.
Biden-Harris Administration launches Heat.gov.
Yesterday, The White House released the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) or Heat.gov, a website that helps the public identify “needs for extreme heat services, develops science-based solutions, and leverages partnerships to empower communities with improved communications, capacity building, and decision-making.”
“What people need in urban areas, where the heat index can sometimes be hotter than surrounding areas, the Heat.gov portal is that one-stop shop for people, decision-makers. And that could be community planners; it could be the chief operating officer of a small business. It could be a mom and dad trying to figure out should their kid go out to play today or not – can now go and get the information they need to make decisions.”
Dr. Spinrad said the newly-launched website also has information for those in search of the implications associated with heat-related illness and that “heat stroke is a very serious consequence.” The website may also direct the public to additional services like registered cooling stations. “Heat.gov will help save lives – period,” he asserted.
As explained on the website, some communities of color living in risk-prone areas are exposed to multiple pollutants over an extended period of time; however, adaptation plans that consider these communities and improve access to healthcare can help address such social inequalities.
Additionally, it explains how kids are at a much higher risk of heat stroke and illness than adults. However, adults can mitigate these risks in children by monitoring their exertion and hydration. Older adults, pregnant people, athletes, those living in low-income communities, and the unsheltered are also vulnerable.
Dr. Spinrad also explained why Oklahoma is as hot as Death Valley.
“One of the things that we’re seeing with climate change is that weather patterns are shifting around the country. And these tend to be a situation where some of these patterns, a high-pressure area that can heat up, tend to linger longer than they did in the past. So basically, what you’re seeing is increased exposure to sunlight resulting in higher temperatures. And then, as a result, you see these extraordinary record-breaking temperatures in places like Tulsa.”
Since June 10, Oklahoma has received very little measurable rainfall.
Although the nation may be politically polarized at the moment, Dr. Spinrad said that despite politics, people care about what to do when extreme temperatures linger.
“I talked with a congressman from a very red district, in fact, it was in Oklahoma, and he said: ‘I’m a fifth-generation farmer, and all I know is that I have to farm differently than from my grandfather. And I know that the seasons are changing – it’s hotter; it’s dryer ’,” Dr. Spinrad stated. “So what we’re trying to do at NOAA is say, okay, let’s get you the information; let’s give you a seasonal outlook of temperatures and precipitation that will help you decide if you need to rotate crops, do you need to do some other farming practice. That’s the important question. Not whose fault it is [or] is this real or not? People are seeing [climate change] in their everyday lives.”