Heat can be a tremendous threat in Iowa and it’s one of the country’s top weather-related killers. Last year, 94 people died from the extreme heat, more than twice the 45 deaths the previous year. Today is Heat Awareness Day.

National Weather Service meteorologist Kelsey Angle said it’s vital to stay aware of the forecast and take precautions for a heat wave just as you would for an approaching blizzard.

“One of the reasons why we’re holding a Heat Awareness Day is so people can plan and prepare as we start to go through the heart of the summer season and the impacts associated with heat as well as humidity,” Angle said.

According to Angle, Iowans need to take care of themselves if they plan to be outside for any period of time during a heat wave, especially if they’re exerting themselves.

“Pay attention to what their body is telling them because often when the heat index gets above 105, people can get in some serious health danger if they don’t take appropriate precautions,” Angle said. “Take a break, maintain hydration, drink lots and lots of water.”

The weekend forecast calls for very warm weather, with potential-record highs in the mid- to upper-90s. The normal high for this time of year is in the 70s.

Every summer, children and animals die or are hospitalized from being left unattended in a hot car.

“You can have temperatures in the 80s and if you’ve got kids or pets inside a vehicle without air conditioning, temperatures can rapidly rise to well over 120 degrees just in a matter of a few minutes,” Angle said. “It’s important that you don’t leave children or pets inside a vehicle.”

On warmer days, temps inside the vehicle can quickly reach 160 degrees. Children are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion, heat stroke and even death because their bodies generate more heat due to their size. Their ability to sweat to cool themselves down isn’t as fully developed as adults. Animals, too, can quickly suffer brain damage or die from heatstroke or suffocation from being left in a hot vehicle. During extreme heat, Angle urges Iowans to check in on neighbors, make sure pets and livestock have adequate shade and water, and keep up with the changing forecast.

“Any time the heat index is expected to get above 105 degrees, we’ll issue advisories for that,” Angle said “If we expect heat index values to be significantly higher, we’ll issue an Excessive Heat Warning.”

For more information about heat advisories, check the NWS website.

(Reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s Matt Kelley)