COOLING DOWN: Regusta, right, and Duane Hawkins from Port Elizabeth cool off in the diving pool at the Joan Harrison pool complex yesterday. Sweltering temperatures and high humidity rates caused major discomfort. The water temperature in the diving pool read 30 degrees, according to the thermometer
Picture: ALAN EASON
THE high temperatures in the eastern half of the Eastern Cape during the past few days are “normal”, according to the South African Weather Services (SAWS).
However, people in the province have been warned against spending too long in the sun, which could lead to various illnesses and even death.
Temperatures in various parts of the province have been on the rise in recent days, resulting in high discomfort levels, with King William’s Town recording a scotching 41C yesterday .
In other parts of the province and beyond, temperatures have been hovering above the 30C mark in the past few days.
However, it was revealed that the conditions were normal for this time of the year and could go on until March, according to SAWS spokesman Garth Sampson, who also runs a Weather Guru page on Facebook.
Sampson said most parts of the province currently had a discomfort level of 100 and above, with East London and surroundings peaking at a discomfort level of 104 yesterday .
By late yesterday, Somerset East had recorded the highest discomfort level at 114.
“This is in an extremely uncomfortable level, however, this high discomfort level must not be confused with a heat wave as the temperatures are normal for this period of the year,” said Sampson.
“This is not a heat wave, this is normal and occurs every year between January and March when the easterly flow is more predominant. High temperatures with added humidity are brought in off the sea with the easterly flow.”
According to Sampson, when temperature and humidity are high at the same time, people’s ability to cool their bodies through sweating is reduced, leading to high discomfort levels which can be a threat and lead to various illnesses and, in extreme cases, death.
Sampson said discomfort level categories ranged from:
- 80-90 which is moderately uncomfortable;
- 90-100 which is very uncomfortable;
- 100-110 which is extremely uncomfortable and where school sport and hard labour activities should be stopped; and
- 110+ which is hazardous to people and animal’s health and whereby all outdoor activities should cease.
By 2pm yesterday, provincial discomfort levels stood at:
- Port Elizabeth 108;
- Graaff-Reinet 106;
- Cradock 111;
- Fort Beaufort 102;
- Somerset East 114;
- Uitenhage 105;
- Port Alfred 98;
- Grahamstown 105; and
- East London at 104.
Dr Owen Woodhall, a Pretoria University-based health expert, warned that people exposed to extreme heat could end up suffering from heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat fainting, heat edema (which is swelling of hands, feet and ankles), heat rash and heat cramps.
“Heat illnesses are preventable. During hot weather the most important thing is to keep cool, keep your body wet and hydrated through drinking lots of liquids, but not alcohol,” Woodhall said.
He added that while extreme heat could put everyone at risk from heat illnesses, health risks were greater for the elderly, infants and young children, people with chronic illnesses such as breathing difficulties, mental illness or heart conditions and people who worked or exercised in the heat.
Some stores around East London yesterday said their fans were sold out as temperatures rocketed.
Well-known swimming coach Joe Hillstrom said the water temperature at the Joan Harrison hit 30C for the first time in 20 years.
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Article source: http://www.dispatch.co.za/news/article/2674