Hot enough for ya? Blistering heat, humidity, sudden fierce storms with high winds and lightning, power outages, or as we call it here in the Key’s…Tuesday.
Seriously though, we here on the rocks can relate. We know what you are going through up there in the mainland with this heat wave. It’s some kind of nasty weather especially if you ain’t used to it. We live with high heat, humidity, and storms just about every day. And here is a secret, you don’t get used to it, you just adjust your lifestyle to deal with it. But when the weather hits extremes like it did over the weekend it can hit people pretty hard. It would be like a sudden cold front with freezing temperatures hitting the Key’s. We would be totally unprepared for it and there wouldn’t be a whole lot anybody could do except ride it out and adjust accordingly.
So, to help you deal with the heat and storms, here are some tips from those of us who live like that everyday in the summer, and most of the rest of the year. It’s not so bad if you take a few precautions and understand that nature will always win out in this sort of thing.
I’ll skip all the preaching about climate change, end of the world, and the next mass extinction bullshit. Whatever the reasons are that are causing these extreme weather patterns don’t matter at this point. What matters is that they are happening and you’ll need to adjust to them.
Firstly, the heat can kill you. Quite easily actually. Get out there in the middle of the day when the sun is at it’s highest and start doing things like lawn work, construction, or other physical activities without the proper precautions and you are asking for trouble. Heat stroke, dehydration, sunburn, it all can happen. So what do you do?
SLOW DOWN: Take your time about doing stuff. If you are out mowing the lawn and it’s a large lawn, take frequent breaks. Don’t be in a big hurry. The grass is just going to grow back anyways. Whether it be mowing or any other activity out in the heat, slow it down. Here in the Key’s we call it running on “island time”. The pace of life is just a bit slower than up on the mainland. Why? Cause it’s hot that’s why! No sense in needlessly working up a sweat and endangering your health when you can still get things done at a slower pace. Yeah, I know. You live in a big city, or your boss demands you get it done right now as he sits in his air conditioned office looking at porn while you slave away in the hot sun. (I worked for somebody like that once….Once!) Don’t endanger your health for the paycheck. That’s what the military does and they train for it. You have not trained for it.
DRESS FOR THE WEATHER: Something most people overlook is the way they dress for hot weather. Sure, some may break out the short sleeve shirts and cut offs but it goes beyond that. Light colored, loose fitting, breathable fabrics are the best way to go. I actually wear long sleeve shirts all the time but they breathe. (I’m partial to the Columbia Brand). These type of shirts allow you to sweat but then the sweat will evaporate through the material causing a cooling effect. Yeah, they’ll stink up the laundry basket at the end of the day but you won’t feel as run down from all the heat. Virtually all my clothes are white or light tan in color. A bit bland but much cooler. You can always tell the people who have no experience with the heat down here. They are the ones sweating it out in the dark colored clothes. I cringe when I go past some of the resorts and businesses where they make their employees wear dark or black clothes because that’s the uniform of the company. It’s got to be miserable for them when they have to work outside. (When I was in the motorcycle business the uniform was jeans and black t-shirts, no matter what the weather. Looking cool was more important than actually staying cool.)
If you are working or going to be outside for extended periods of time, a light colored wide brim hat comes in real handy. It provides some shade and for those of us with bald spots, it prevents some rather painful sunburn.
As for those of you who have to wear suits to your jobs, if possible, wear lighter clothes when traveling to work and then change when you get there after you have had a chance to cool down some. I know these solutions don’t work for everyone but I’m trying to cover as much as possible here.
WATER, WATER, WATER: Or perhaps some Gatorade or other sports drink. It can’t be stressed enough that being out in the heat will dehydrate you fast. Keep plenty of water handy and take frequent breaks. Stay away from the sugar drinks like sodas and the very last thing you should be drinking is any booze. Alcohol does nothing but harm in the heat. Wait until the end of the day to have that cold beer or rum runner. And even then, take it easy. Don’t believe me? Wait until the next day when you are facing the heat with a hangover.
SWEAT IS GOOD: If you are sweating that means you have plenty of liquids in your system. Stop sweating in the heat means you are in big trouble. If you do stop sweating, more than likely you may get other symptoms of heat exhaustion or worse. A cold clammy feeling, exhaustion, the sudden realization that the job is just not worth the money. If you do start to feel a little light headed, or you suddenly stop sweating, stop what ever you are doing and get into some shade. Get some liquids in you and let somebody know you are having issues with the heat. If you see somebody having problems get them some medical assistance as quickly as possible. People who are older, heavier in weight, or have health problems are going to be more susceptible to the effects of heat than other. Use a little common sense before going outside.
SUNSCREEN IS OUR FRIEND: If you ain’t used to that big yellow ball of flame up in the sky chances are your skin will feel the effects of it rather quickly. If the last time your bare skin saw the light of day was when you were born you are going to fry like bacon if you run around unprotected. A good sunscreen is worth the cost. I prefer SPF 50 or better. It will protect your skin against most anything short of a thermonuclear blast. Slather it on thick and heavy if you are going to be exposed to the sun for extended periods of time. You may smell like baked coconut but better than spending some mighty painful days dealing with third degree burns.
EAT LIGHT: Eating heavy meals will just tire you out and cause more problems over the course of a hot day. Stick to lighter fare, fish, shrimp, salads, lots of fruits, that sort of thing. Eat smaller meals and spread them out over the day rather than eat large meals.
THE POWER IS OUT, WHAT NOW OH WISE ONE: Them solar panels looking like a good investment about now? If the power does go out for a while you’ll need to adjust accordingly. If your home built to do it, open windows on opposite ends of the building to allow a bit of a wind come through. Many houses were designed like that here in Florida before the days of air conditioning. Your food in the fridge is going to not last very long so you may want to consume it first if it looks like it will be awhile before the power comes back on. If you have a lot of meat and a grill you might consider cooking it all up so it doesn’t spoil. If you have an upright freezer it will hold the cold much longer than a fridge which spills all the cold out every time you open the door. If you happen to have a generator, congratulations. Hopefully it runs and you have some fuel for it. Close off as much as the house as possible and run just the bare minimum of what you need. (Run the damn thing outside, not in the house.) A window mount air conditioner unit comes in real handy for this sort of situation. A friend of mine had just such a situation arise after hurricane Charley hit in 2004. The power was out for a week but he had a generator, a window ac, and plenty of fuel. He closed off the rest of the house other than the living room and managed to keep him and his girlfriend comfortable enough until the power was restored. If you don’t have a generator, as I didn’t, you’ll be living in a sweltering box for a while. There is not a whole lot you can do about it except limit your movements and take the precautions I listed above. Your house may be hot but at least it has shade. If you are up north you may have something called a basement. Head down there for a while where it is cooler. Remember too that if you don’t have power, and everyone else doesn’t have power, you won’t be able to get things like groceries or fuel. I also ran into that issue after Charley. As it happened, by the third day as I was down to the last of the bread and peanut butter, I found out that a local Wendy’s was running a generator and the fryers were in action. I stood in line for an hour for the best damn cheeseburger and lemonade with ice I ever had. I’m not a fan of fast food but I will always give a shout out to Wendy’s for that day. When the power does come back on, and it will, be careful as you may have left a lot of things on before it went out. If there are power lines down in your area because of a storm they may suddenly be live again. Take it easy when powering everything back up again so as to not overload the grid.
So what about the storms that come with the heat? Well, I’ll talk about that in the next post.
In the meantime, slow down, dress for the weather, keep plenty of liquids in you, and learn to live on island time.