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Heat poses risks to animals, vulnerable individuals
July 2024 summer heat

Those who opened their iPhone weather app on Thursday morning probably were ready to book an Alaskan cruise upon seeing a July 6 forecast of 122 degrees.

There was enough hand-wringing about what would be a record-breaking temperature in every city from Redding to Bakersfield that the National Weather Service issued a tweet stating there was a zero percent chance — with the exception of China Lake in Kern County, where’s there’s merely a 2 percent chance — of the temperatures hitting 120 degrees.

A few hours later, Apple had fixed the apparent glitch, and displayed an updated forecast of 109 — still no bargain.

After a relatively tame weekend, the blast furnace that is the Central Valley cranked up on Monday with the first of what’s expected to be more than 10 consecutive days in triple digits.

“We’re getting some high-pressure ridging building over the area, from the eastern Pacific and the desert southwest merging,” said Eric Kurth, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento. “That’ll produce well above normal heat for next week; about 10 to 12 degrees above normal for this time of year.”

Temperatures are expected to top out today at 111 degrees and remain hovering between 100 and 111 for the next 10 days – also baking the entire run of the Stanislaus County Fair that starts Friday and ends July 14.

Cooling centers will be offered at the Ceres Community Center and the branches of the county library.

Stanislaus County’s Office of Emergency Services recommends limiting outdoor time between the hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; drinking plenty of water; taking breaks in the shade; and checking on older or infirm neighbors and relatives. It goes without saying that children and pets cannot be left in a car for even seconds in the kind of heat broiling the Valley.

Those who will seek relief in the Tuolumne or Stanislaus rivers to get cooled off are advised to be careful of the still cold and fast-moving current of local streams.

The risk of heat stroke will run high this week and possibly other times this summer. Heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature and the temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Symptoms of heat stroke include a throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, body temperature above 103°F, hot, red, dry or damp skin, rapid and strong pulse, fainting and loss of consciousness.

Tiffany Hart, a registered veterinary technician at Canal Veterinary Hospital in Turlock, reminds pet owners to take precautions, making sure their pets have access to shade and fresh water when outside.

“We typically recommend keeping your pets indoors during heatwaves,” said Hart. “Overheating can lead to a whole bunch of complications.”

Walking on hot concrete is dangerous for pets, so the early morning hours are best for walks.

“Even in the later evening, after it’s been really, really hot out, the concrete and asphalt can still be way too hot for their paws,” said Hart. “So, typically, early morning is the best.”

Signs that your pet may be struggling with the heat include heavy panting, lethargy, disorientation, and even fainting.

“They can even also show signs of excitement when they’re overheating,” said Hart. “They get a little bit confused and roam around and act excited, which can lead to heating up the body even more. The ones we really do not want outside are the brachycephalic breeds — bulldogs, pugs — the breeds with the really short noses. They tend to not move oxygen as well as other dogs, so that causes them to overheat a lot faster. We highly advise they stay indoors.”

Cats, on the other hand, tend not to need as much help.

“Cats kind of figure it out on their own, but they can overheat,” said Hart. “If you have a cat that’s not used to going outdoors, then keep it inside to make sure it’s safe.”

Livestock also have a hard time during extreme heat.

“Heatwaves are stressful on large animals,” said Aaron Souza, whose family dairy in Newman has been in operation for more than 40 years. “Water and shade are important. And if you can’t create an air-conditioned setting, then air movement in the barns, with ventilation and fans, is the next best thing.

“Heat is the most stressful weather that dairy farmers deal with. Wet and mud are tough, yeah, but the month of July is the most stressful for a dairy farmer.” 

Souza said that extreme heat can affect milk production, and result in reproductive difficulties.

“A lot can go wrong in the heat,” said Souza.

Lawns and gardens can also taking a beating during the heat. 

“Try to run water before the sun comes up so there’s less evaporation,” said Jay DeGraff, owner of Turlock’s Greenery Nursery. “And just make sure that drip-systems or whatever water device you have is on long enough to hydrate plants in such a hot environment. Or, even have the water come on a second time during your specified watering day.”