When you think of severe weather, thunderstorms and tornadoes are probably the first thing that comes to mind. But, from 1979 to 1999, excessive heat exposure cause over eight-thousand deaths in the United States. During that time period, more people in the U.S. died from extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. State emergency management officials are using this Severe Weather Awareness Week to remind people of the problem of excessive heat. National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Johnson says there were a lot of heat-related deaths in Europe last summer, and heat is usually a silent killer. He says heat kind of creeps up on you, and before you know it, you have high heat and humidity going on for several days. Johnson says there’s one group of Iowans who have the most trouble beating the heat. He says the elderly, especially those without insurance. Johnson says you should keep an eye on those who might be susceptible to heat. He says check on loved ones who don’t have air conditioning, as older people don’t recover as quickly from the heat as younger people. Sweating cools the body through evaporation, but Johnson says it is high relative humidity combined with excessive heat that retards evaporation, robbing the body of its ability to cool itself. That’s why Johnson says always keep an eye on the heat index and listen for excessive heat advisories on the radio.
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