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Pittsburgh, Surrounding Areas Under Heat Advisory

downtown pittsburgh skyline.JPG
Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

Portions of western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio are under a heat advisory Thursday. The heat index is expected to reach 103 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

The advisory is in effect from noon to 8 p.m. It includes Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

Officials advise taking safety precautions while outdoors in the heat. Drink plenty of fluids, apply and reapply sunscreen, avoid strenuous activities and stay indoors if possible.

Despite the heat, Pittsburgh’s cooling centers won’t be opening this week. Last summer, the centers remained closed due to concerns about the coronavirus. Most cooling centers pop up in senior centers which serve some of those most vulnerable to the virus.

While there are concerns about the delta variant this summer, city spokesperson Molly Onufer cited staffing shortages as another reason officials can’t activate the cooling centers.

“We’re not at full operations in those centers and we won’t have the staffing to facilitate the extended hours that are required for a cooling center,” she said.

Still, officials are looking for solutions.

“Although there’s not always a demonstrated need and we don’t have a huge influx of people [demanding this resource], we know that it’s a critical public service that we should be offering when we have capacity to do so,” Onufer said.

The city also cited staffing shortages when officials decided to open only eight of the 18 city pools. There have been efforts to offer lifeguards higher wages as a way to entice more applicants, but that has not yet proved successful.

Residents looking for resources to beat the heat can call the city’s 311 hotline, Onufer said.

Those in need can also access the city’s BigBurgh app which connects users to food options, medical help, showers and other forms of care.

Strong but isolated thunderstorms with damaging winds are also predicted for Thursday afternoon, according to the NWS.

The hot temperatures and high humidity could cause illnesses like heat exhaustion or heat stroke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests seeking immediate medical attention for possible heat stroke if the following symptoms are present:

  • 103 degree or higher body temperature;
  • Fast, strong pulse;
  • Dizziness;
  • Nausea;
  • Confusion; or
  • Losing consciousness.

When suffering a heat stroke, it is not suggested to drink water. Instead, move the person to a cool place and lower their body temperature with damp cloths or a bath.
Heat exhaustion is a milder illness, but can still be dangerous, according to the CDC. Those with high blood pressure and the elderly are more likely to suffer heat exhaustion. Symptoms include: heavy sweating, paleness, weakness, muscle cramps, headache, nausea or vomiting. Medical experts suggest sipping cool water, seeking air-conditioning and resting in the shade when these symptoms arise.

For those who can’t avoid working in the heat Thursday, a new app from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health can help.

The OSHA-NIOSH heat safety tool provides specific advice for planning outdoor work activities based on how hot it feels throughout the day. A visual indicator shows the current heat index and associated risk levels specific to the user’s location.

It also shows an hourly forecast of heat index values, risk level and recommendations for users planning outdoor work activities in advance.

Pets are also at risk during hot days. About 30 pets have died in the U.S. so far this year due heat-related illnesses, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Avoid walking dogs during high temperatures and do not leave animals unattended in cars. Temperatures can climb nearly 20 degrees in 10 minutes, according to The Humane Society of the United States.

Hot temperatures and damaging winds can lead to power outages. Duquesne Light warned customers earlier this week about the risk of outages. Customers can report an outage to the company via its website.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.