It’s a scorcher out there

Published 10:14 am Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chris Felts of Sedley attempts to keep cool Thursday while working at Electric Motor and Contracting in Courtland. GWEN ALBERS/TIDEWATER NEWS

COURTLAND—Sedley’s Chris Felts never gets used to working in the heat; he just deals with it.

That’s just what Felts, who works in a non-air-conditioned shop in Courtland, had planned for Thursday, when temperatures hit a record-high 104 that felt more like 112. Today, July 22, is expected to hit 102 with a heat index of 117. The forecast for Saturday is 101.

“There’s not going to be a whole lot of difference (in the heat index) between Friday and Saturday,” said meteorologist Eric Seymour with the National Weather Service in Wakefield. “It will pretty much be a carbon copy of the same thing.”

The area’s previous record high for July 21 was 98 set in 1987. Record highs for July 22 and July 23 are 100 in 1987 and 101 in 1952, respectively, according to The Weather Channel.

For Felts, who works in quality assurance at Electric Motor and Contracting on Southampton Parkway, keeping cool means drinking Gatorade and water, working near a fan and occasionally escaping to the shop’s air-conditioned area.

When the 43-year-old got to work at 7:15 a.m. Thursday, it was 86 degrees in the shop. He is required to wear long pants and steel-toed boots.

Felts’ co-workers, Glenn Porter and Brandon Roberts, both of Franklin, also deal with the heat by drinking Gatorade. Porter, 55, drinks about 20 to 32 ounces, plus water, on a hot day, while Roberts, 31, downs 60 ounces. The company provides the sports drink to employees.

“You have to pace yourself and drink plenty of Gatorade,” said Porter, a mechanic.

“You adapt to it, but everyone is different,” added Roberts, who is also a mechanic. “If you feel like you’re getting dizzy, you gotta take a break.”

John Fuhrmann, owner of Old Oak Lawn & Landscape in Carrsville, starts the day with a three-gallon cooler of water and another cooler with Gatorade on ice. He also starts the day at 6:30 a.m. and will send everyone home by noon if need be.

“It was warm (at 6:30),” said Fuhrmann, whose company does a lot of commercial mowing. “We stress staying hydrated and drinking as much water as we can. It’s hard to stay out of the sun. You do your best by taking extra breaks.

Employees wear light-colored clothes and long pants.

Seymour expects a break in the extreme heat by Tuesday, when it’s expected to fall into the high 80s.

“We’re still looking at some pretty good heat as we head into Monday,” he said.

Seymour blames the heat on a typical pattern of summertime pressure over the Eastern United States.

“It sits there for several days and allows heat to build up,” he said. “I think we’ll have a cold front go by early next week.”