What you can to when the temps are triple digits. And please don’t forget the animals.
In less than an hour, or around 11 am local time here in Eugene, we are going on a dangerous heat advisory. It isn’t that this never happens around here, it’s that it doesn’t happen until later in the summer. Having grown up in Florida, and traveled to some pretty hot places, surviving the heat isn’t that big a deal unless you’re not familiar with how to handle it.
This morning I ran right around 6:30 am, and got all my minor gardening out of the way. I watered down the new ground cover transplants so that their roots would get the benefit before the sun evaporated it all away. Watering at my house happens between 4:30 and 6:30 am, which is the best way in a changing world to ensure that the plants and trees get their chance of a good soak. And it’s cheaper. Watering later in the day ensures that your expensive resource simply evaporates without doing much good.
Once the sun rose, I closed all the windows and doors which I’d opened to allow the cool night air inside the house. By barely 7:30 am, the heat from the rising sun had already warmed the wood floors and you could feel it radiating as you got close. Where I had them, I pulled the drapes across. One way to manage this, which I used to do in Denver, is invest in drapes or shades which have additional sun-blocking properties. That keeps the sun from heating the inside of your house.
This article outlines these tips and more, especially if you don’t have air conditioning. I do, but with all respect to my HVAC system, my last electric and water bill nearly caused me hospitalization. So to that:
Here is what I’m doing in my Oregon house so that I can delay putting the AC on until absolutely have to. On the hill where I am, that’s the last three hours of the day. That’s when the temps go up at least another twenty degrees, because the sun is no longer blocked by the tall firs.
I bought multiple box fans, which are currently moving last night’s cool air around the house. I’m spending the day in the coolest room of the house doing some long-overdue filing. I got my exercise in early. If I need to do more, I head to the basement. If you have one that is built out enough, consider putting a chair and desk downstairs for uber hot days. I did that this week. My guest bedroom is the coolest room in the house in summer. I put a small screen set up too, in case I need to be distracted by a movie for a few hours.
There are lots of lights throughout the house, most of which are off right now. Only where I need light. One additional trick I use for days like this when it’s too hot to have all the overhead lights on is that I use my camping headlamp. That way only what I need to see gets illuminated, and nothing gets heated unnecessarily. It’s quite remarkable how much heat comes from overhead lights such as in bedrooms and the kitchen. The dark also feels cooler.
If you can, invest in an overhead fan which also can be reversed. Moving the air in the room helps, and reversing the flow to bring cooler air up can make a huge difference.
While this may seem obvious, we so often forget: drink LOTS of cold water. Adding alcohol isn’t a good idea, nor is drinking anything hot or which has caffiene, which causes us to lose water.
As an athlete, and as one who has hiked in 115 degree heat, I make sure that I have Pedialite or Nuun crystals mixed into my water. You also can use these ideas to make sure that you don’t get dehydrated as well:
Nuun’s not cheap but I’ve found it to be critical for liquid retention on long hikes.
There’s a very good reason watermelon is such a popular summer food. It’s 92% water, and not only refreshing, but renewing. Stock up.
Any appliance that isn’t in use gets turned off, as that saves radiant heat, which underscores the above article’s point about not cooking your meals. Not only will you heat up, the stove will heat your kitchen, which undermines your efforts. I have cold salads, ice cold apples, berries and other treats available when I’m hungry. Nothing gets cooked on hot days unless I can limit myself to the microwave.
One particular favorite is either ice cold or frozen grapes.
This morning when I sat in my gazebo to let the sweat from my morning run dry, I watched the local deer and turkeys approach. These days I have five different water sources, each of them at a different height, available for any animal that comes through. We’re not the only ones suffering. With so many water sources drying up, it’s incumbent upon us to put water out in shady places so that they can survive heat. They aren’t used to it any more than we are up here in Oregon.
Finally, while this seems obvious, for some it isn’t. Your pets, particularly if they’re kept outside, are just as susceptible to heat stroke as we are. PLEASE make sure they have access to water, or can find shade. More than one pet owner got in serious trouble with the law over the last few years by hiking with a dog, not providing enough water, and the dog died. Protect your pets. The kindest thing is to bring what animals you can safely inside. Where I’ve traveled in the hottest parts of the world, owners have installed fans in their stables and they often will wet their animals down during the worst heat of the day.
And while that isn’t on the list, that’s my best heat- buster. I don’t have a pool, and Covid has kept me from joining a local pool so far. But if it gets unbearable, I take a cool bath or shower, and then let the water evaporate.
Whether or not you happen to agree with climate change makes no difference. While I moved to Eugene in the hopes of seeing more rain and cool weather, I am being met with the same intense heat I was hoping to escape. The only way to deal with it is to learn to adapt, to make the big and small changes which allow us to survive, and to be as appreciative as possible of those animals whose survival in a hot world increasingly depends on our kindnesses. When you get into the habit of being kind to yourself on uber-hot days, it becomes a lot easier to be kinder to others, as well as those who might really like a clean, full, shaded bird bath.
They can’t say so, but they sure appreciate ways to beat the heat.