By Jason Jones, WP Staff Writer
Baton Rouge has shattered a long-standing record, enduring an unprecedented streak of scorching temperatures gripping the region for over a week. Forecasters warn that the blazing trend shows no signs of relenting anytime soon.
On Sunday, the mercury surged to a sweltering 101 degrees Fahrenheit, marking the ninth consecutive day the thermometer soared above the 100-degree mark, according to the National Weather Service. This surpasses the previous record set in 1921 when Baton Rouge endured eight consecutive days of triple-digit heat.
Weather experts project that the searing conditions will persist, with the high temperatures expected to hover above 100 degrees until at least Friday. If this prediction holds, the remarkable streak would extend to 14 days.
Baton Rouge's battle with the extreme heat is typical for the year. The city has already weathered over 100-degree temperatures for 11 days this year. The historical record, established again in 1921, stands at 28 days.
Amidst this heatwave, the National Weather Service reported that July is Baton Rouge's hottest month on record, boasting an average temperature of 87.8 degrees. Preceding that, June clinched the title for the hottest June ever experienced, boasting an average of 84.5 degrees.
The zenith of this current sweltering stretch struck on August 1, when thermometers hit an unprecedented high of 104 degrees.
Regrettably, the unforgiving heatwave has cast a grim shadow across Louisiana. The state's Department of Health has documented 16 heat-related fatalities during June and July. Additionally, from April 1 to July 29, 3,305 emergency department visits were attributed to heat-related ailments—a significant spike from the ten-year average of approximately 2,700.
Brad Harris, the spokesperson for East Baton Rouge EMS, revealed that the number of heat-related calls had escalated substantially. From May 9 onwards, the EMS team fielded 104 heat-related calls, translating to just over one daily on average. These calls have surged over the months, rising from five in May to around 50 by the close of July. Harris acknowledged that call categorization may lead to variances but underscored the common occurrence of clustered calls, particularly during outdoor social events.
As the heatwave persists, Harris urged individuals to guard against heat-related health emergencies proactively, advising the importance of ample hydration and seeking shade when necessary, especially to fend off heatstroke.
Mark Armstrong, the East Baton Rouge city-parish government spokesperson, assured residents that the local administration remains vigilant in monitoring the community's well-being amid the relentless heat. For those lacking access to air conditioning, parish libraries have extended their hours of operation, providing a respite from the oppressive temperatures. Emergency-hour shelters at St. Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army have also been established to aid those in need.
Meteorologist Robert Frye from the National Weather Service in Slidell elaborated on the factors contributing to the heatwave's intensity. The southeastern United States, including south-central regions, has been ensnared in a mighty heat dome, where high-pressure systems trap scorching air. Coupled with minimal rainfall, high humidity levels have resulted in heat indices reaching a stifling 113 degrees during daylight hours, persisting at 90 degrees even after sunset.
With these challenges in mind, adhering to Weather Service recommendations is imperative. Wearing light and loose-fitting clothing to minimize heat absorption, maintaining hydration, and taking regular breaks are essential for those exposed to outdoor conditions. Moreover, a particular emphasis is placed on safeguarding the elderly population, who are more vulnerable to extreme heat, while cautioning against leaving children and pets unattended in hot vehicles.