This July and August offered record-breaking heat waves with temperatures reaching at 99 degrees over week-long periods. Middle and South Georgia experienced temperatures reaching up to 100 degrees. The National Weather Service defines any heat index of 105 degrees Farhenheit or higher as dangerous.
A person experiences overheating when the body temperature goes up to 104 degrees. Sustained temperatures cause decreased blood flow to the organs and eventually multisystem organ failure. Without prompt intervention to lower the body temperature, heat stroke can be fatal. Prior to heat stroke, a person can experience heat exhaustion. The symptoms are headaches, dizziness, lethargy and malaise. Symptoms of heat stroke are confusion, altered mental state, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, profuse sweating, seizures, and a very high body temperature. Heat stroke is a life threatening emergency.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Georgia is predicted to have more frequent days of temperatures in the 95 degree range. As climate change drives higher temperatures, Georgia residents become vulnerable to flooding of homes, over-heating in densely packed urban heat islands, and increasing energy bills. Health risks are not distributed equally. Some Georgia residents do not have air conditioning. Some Georgians are homeless. Some neighborhoods lack sufficient green space and tree canopies which provide cooling shade. Some citizens work in occupations, such as construction, agriculture or maintenance, that require being outdoors during extreme heat. Across the country, poor and minority neighborhoods disproportionately suffer the consequences of rising temperatures.
While many metro Atlanta counties offered cooling stations, areas where residents could escape the heat, during heat waves, rural counties often have limited facilities for cooling stations. In Georgia, a person can dial 2-1-1 for information on your nearest cooling center.