We’re either getting tougher or smarter when it comes to heat

Hazy sunshine heats temps to the 100s across southeast Wisconsin in early July 2012.

Hazy sunshine heats temps to the 100s across southeast Wisconsin in early July 2012.

We can close the books on this heat wave. July 3rd-6th 2012 gave us scorching weather we have not seen in 17 years. The high temp at Mitchell International averaged 99° over the 4 day period with most inland locations well into the 100s each day. Combined with dew points hovering near 70° the heat index consistently rose to 100°-110° and occasionally to 115° in spots. On July 4th we reached a record breaking temp of 102° in the city, the hottest since July 14, 1995. The next day the mercury rose to 103°. This not only broke another daily record but was tied for 3rd for hottest day ever on record. Only 2 days in the dust bowl year of 1934 saw a temperature hotter than 103°

It’s hard to say we made it through unscathed but thanks to preparation and learning from past heat waves the preliminary number of deaths in southeast Wisconsin from this event is zero (though statewide 4 deaths have been linked to the heat so far).

Over the last 30 years hot weather has caused 78 fatalities in southeast Wisconsin, that’s more than the number of deaths from tornadoes, thunderstorm winds, lightning, and floods COMBINED. Greater awareness of the harm hot weather can cause certainly contributed to our success this time around. If you checked on elderly neighbors/family, helped anyone get to a cooling center or public building with AC, or even just offered someone a drink of water give yourself a pat on the back. Dangerous heat is possibly the form of severe weather we are most vulnerable to in our part of the world. You cannot outrun it and often don’t expect it. Let’s be honest when people picture Wisconsin weather they don’t envision people jumping into Lake Michigan to cool off. Let’s hope the next time sizzling temps show up in our neighborhood we’re just as smart about how we deal with the heat as we were this time around.

UPDATE: New information released early this week shows up to 5 deaths may be related to the heat in southeast Wisconsin last week. So we did not make it through the heat wave “unscathed”. However, during our last major heat wave in July 1995 Milwaukee experienced 85 direct and not direct heat related deaths.

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