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Extreme Heatwaves Continue to Grip US as Millions Under Heat & Air Quality Alerts

ReachMD Healthcare Image
07/03/2023
theguardian.com

Key events

Here is a roundup of the day’s key events:

  • People who are 65 years or older are more prone to heat-related health problems, the CDC said. According to the CDC, older adults do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature. Additionally, they are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat.

  • New York governor Kathy Hochul said that the poor air quality covering New York is “not as bad as it was three weeks ago when the skies were orange but there are still significant public health risks.” Hochul listed several regions most impacted by the poor quality as a result of smoke drifting from Canada’s wildfires into the US, including western New York, central New York, and the Adirondacks.

  • Mexican health authorities say there have been at least 112 heat-related deaths so far this year, acknowledging for the first time the deadliness of a recent heatwave that the president previously dismissed as an invention of alarmist journalists. The report, released late Wednesday, also shows a significant spike in heat-related fatalities in the last two weeks. So far this year, the overall heat-related deaths are almost triple the figures in 2022.

  • A new survey by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) Research Institute has found that 53% of Americans reported that extreme weather events – including hurricanes, tornadoes, heatwaves, wildfires and flooding – have adversely affected their health. Moreover, more than half of the respondents reported negative impacts on their property (51%), communities (58%) and feelings of general safety (65%) from extreme weather events.

  • The city of Pittsburgh has postponed its Set It Off to Summer event which was supposed to celebrate the extended hours of operation at the city’s recreational centers. “Due to the ongoing Code Red Air Quality, we have decided to postpone our Set it Off to Summer event until July 13, 2023,” the city announced on Twitter.

  • The US Democratic representative Colin Allred of Texas hit back against Republicans after Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that rescinded water breaks despite a record-breaking heatwave spreading the state. “The current heat wave has Texas set to be hotter than 99% of the world this week. Yet, the radical Republicans running our state are denying workers water breaks in this heat,” Allred said.

  • As of Thursday morning, three major cities in the US were ranked as the top three places in the world with the worst air quality. According to the air tracking service IQAir, Chicago, Detroit and Washington DC topped air quality index charts with all three cities’ air being classified as “unhealthy”.

That’s it from me, Maya Yang, as we wrap up the blog for today. Thank you for following along.

Older adults are more at risk of heat-related illnesses, according to geriatric experts.

People who are 65 years or older are more prone to heat-related health problems, the CDC said.

According to the CDC, older adults do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature. Additionally, they are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat. Moreover, they are more likely to take prescription medicines that affect the body’s ability to control its temperature or sweat.

“As summertime weather starts, it is vital that older adults know the dangers and how to be prepared for extreme heat and humidity,” Greg Olsen, the director of the New York state office for the aging told Mid Hudson News.

“Now is also an important time for family, neighbors, and friends to check in with older adults as a precaution, especially in advance of a forecasted heat wave. This is particularly important for older adults who are most at risk, such as individuals who are low-income, live alone, have chronic conditions or who take certain medications,” he added.

Washington DC-based meteorologist Matthew Cappucci predicted that Washington DC and the majority of the US will likely face intermittent smoke “all summer long,” likely stretching into October.

New York governor Kathy Hochul said that the poor air quality covering New York is “not as bad as it was three weeks ago when the skies were orange but there are still significant public health risks.”

Hochul listed several regions most impacted by the poor quality as a result of smoke drifting from Canada’s wildfires into the US.

At least 112 heat-related deaths have occurred in Mexico this year as the country continues to struggle with record temperatures.

The Associated Press reports:

Mexican health authorities say there have been at least 112 heat-related deaths so far this year, acknowledging for the first time the deadliness of a recent heatwave that the president previously dismissed as an invention of alarmist journalists.

The report, released late Wednesday, also shows a significant spike in heat-related fatalities in the last two weeks. So far this year, the overall heat-related deaths are almost triple the figures in 2022.

The Health Department normally issues a report on heat-related fatalities each week, but in June — at the height of the heat wave — it skipped a week, for reasons that remain unclear.

The deaths reached a peak in the week of June 18-24, with 69 deaths in one week nationwide, an unprecedented number. Temperatures in some parts of Mexico have risen to over 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) in recent weeks.

The week of June 11-17 was also unusually bad, with 31 deaths across the country.

So far this year, the largest number of deaths from heatstroke and dehydration have occurred in the northern border state of Nuevo Leon, home to the industrial hub of Monterrey.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador claimed last week that mounting reports of heat deaths were untrue, and were part of a media campaign against his administration.

“There is an alarmist, yellow-journalism trend,” López Obrador said, citing lower death figures that were already outdated at that time.

A person drinks a beverage to cool off due to the high temperatures, in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, Mexico, 28 June 2023. Photograph: Miguel Sierra/EPA

With Canada’s wildfires continuing the rage uncontrollably, the Guardian’s Gabrielle Canon and Leyland Cecco writes about how the fires have forced American crews to shift their firefighting strategies.

Canon and Cecco reports:

US, Australian, New Zealand, South African, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Mexican, Chilean and Costa Rican firefighters have joined the struggle in Canada, highlighting how countries around the world are contending with shared and intensifying catastrophes fueled by the climate crisis.

But key differences in approach have prompted new questions about best practices in the face of a global challenge. Along with new types of terrain, US firefighters in Canada have encountered different techniques in the early stages of a burn, a new set of safety protocols, and contrasting requirements for protective equipment.

For the full story, click here:

The Alabama department of public health has issued a heat advisory, urging resident to take extra precaution due to a heat dome currently enveloping the state.

“Temperatures may reach 100 degrees Thursday and Friday across Alabama,” the department wrote.

Tell us: have you been affected by extreme weather in the US?

We would like to hear from people in the US about how they have been affected by recent extreme weather and smoke from Canadian wildfires.

You can tell us how you have been affected by extreme weather in the US and Canadian wildfires by messaging us or using this form in the link below:

Actor Mark Ruffalo has chimed in on the sustainability discussion, as he tweeted a Guardian article on solar powers helping Texas carry energy loads as a record-breaking heatwave strains the state’s power grids.

“Thank God they have solar and renewables in Texas. We can harvest the energy all around us without having to dig and poison the water and land—and have reliable energy always—wind, water, and sun,” he wrote.

Here are images of the north-east as states including New York, Illinois and New Jersey remain covered in varying layers of smoke and haze:

A lifeguard stands watch along the lakefront as wildfire smoke clouds the skyline on Wednesday in Chicago, Illinois. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images
The Statue of Liberty stands in front of a hazy New York City skyline in this view from Jersey City, New Jersey, on Thursday. Photograph: Seth Wenig/AP
Cars drive in hazy smoke on South Capitol Street towards the US Capitol Building on Thursday in Washington DC. Photograph: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team have rescheduled their series finale game with the San Diego Padres due to current weather conditions.

The Pennsylvania department for environmental protection has issued a code red alert for Pittsburgh, with the alert covering multiple areas including Mercer, Lawrence, Butler, Armstrong, Indiana, Beaver, Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington, Greene, Fayette and Somerset counties, CBS reports.

Survey: 53% of Americans report that extreme weather events adversely affected their health

A new survey by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) Research Institute has found that 53% of Americans reported that extreme weather events – including hurricanes, tornadoes, heatwaves, wildfires and flooding – have adversely affected their health.

In survey results reviewed by the Guardian, the institute found:

  • 42% have experienced short-term injury or illness

  • 23% report complications to an existing chronic condition

  • 15% have suffered a long-term injury or a new chronic condition

Moreover, more than half of the respondents reported negative impacts on their property (51%), communities (58%) and feelings of general safety (65%) from extreme weather events.

Here are some pictures coming across the newswires of the heatwave in Texas:

Deputy Sergeant Aaron Horta and Memorial Funeral Chapel Polo Vargas load a deceased body into a storage freezer on June 28, 2023 in Eagle Pass, Texas. According to local authorities, there has been an uptick in casualties and migrant crossings into the US over the last two weeks. Photograph: Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Andres Matamoros wipes the sweat from his face while selling fresh fruit and cold coconuts from his roadside stand Wednesday in Houston. Photograph: David J Phillip/AP
People react to a period of hot weather in Houston
Homeless people stay under the shades of the trees to escape the heat during hot weather in Houston, Texas, on Wednesday.
Photograph: Go Nakamura/Reuters
Mike Garza works on a vehicle outside of EMS Mechanic & Tire Shop, which consists of a few shaded areas but does not have any access to air conditioning, in San Antonio, Texas, this year. Photograph: Kaylee Greenlee Beal/Reuters

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