The fourth heat warning of the year for Pima County means precautions are needed to protect people and animals from heat injury and death. That includes lots of watermelon.
The current warning is in effect until 8 p.m. Wednesday, but that doesn't mean Thursday is going to feel much better.
National Weather Service-Tucson meteorologist Maddie Powell said that Thursday may still see above-average temperatures, but it won't meet the threshold with all the other conditions to call for an excessive heat warning. There is no single standard or a given temperature for all times of the year that triggers a warning.
This heat warning is called because the temperature aren't normal for this time of August — which should be between the upper 90s to about 105 when weighing in the precipitation factor. We're at 108 to 109 degrees, Powell said.
Other factors are also in play such as prolonged periods of heat and little change in the low from high temperature and humidity. Humidity can raise the heat index making it feel hotter than the recorded temperature. In more humid areas this may factor in more than a drier area like southern Arizona. The heat index here tends to be closer to the recorded temperature, Powell said.
"July was definitely above average, we know that," she said. "I'm sure this August will be as well, but the month isn't over yet so we see in those remaining couple of weeks here."
There is a heightened risk of heat injury for older residents during these excessive heat warnings as well.
"Their ability to regulate body temperature is not as capable as a younger person," Powell said. "They should definitely stay in an air-conditioned location and hydrate. Those are the two best things."
Miles Waterbury, Green Valley Recreation's fitness coordinator and communications specialist, said the S.O.S. program teaches heat safety protocol to volunteers. GVR staff also receives regular training and briefings on how to operate in high-heat environments.
However, it isn't just people who are at risk. Animals also need a helping hand.
The Animal League of Green Valley's president, Jean Davis, said the shelter takes precautions in general during the summer to keep the dogs safe from heat injury or overexposure to the sun, but excessive heat warnings require more attention.
"We do it more right now, the last couple of days," Davis said. "The one thing that we generally do, and of course are doing now, is we take them out for their longer walks early in the morning. I'm talking like at 6 o'clock in the morning."
In the afternoon, the group is more cautious and will sometimes take the dogs out for shorter walks to reduce heat exposure. In addition, any hard walkway between the kennels and open nature is watered down and hand-checked to make sure it is safe for the dogs, Davis said.
Most of the dogs are housed inside with cool air, but a few are in outdoor areas. Although the dogs are outside, they are kept hydrated, shaded and have a shaded pool to cool off in, she said.
All TALGV cats are inside. The cats do have access to outdoor "catio" areas — screened in patios for cats — from their air-conditioned indoor areas.
"When I leave late in the afternoon here, there'll be some that are just laying out there in the sun when they have a choice," Davis said with a laugh. "Like lions and tigers, some of them like to go out there, but then they come back in through their little kitty door to the inside."
In addition to keeping an eye on the animals in the shelter, TALGV volunteers also keep an eye out for animals left in hot cars. Davis said they haven't had an issue so far this summer.
Let 'em eat
At Pima Animal Care Center it's a different story. The shelter's director, Kristen Hassen-Auerbach, said they are on high alert for animals left in hot cars and for reports of animals with no shade or water. At the current high temperatures, it can be deadly, she said.
PACC can receive a dozen reports daily about animals in distress, from strays needing to be cooled down to dogs left in yards without shade, Hassen-Auerbach said.
It's dangerous for animals to be left outside unattended in the heat of the day without appropriate accommodations. While all animals need to be given proper shade, water and not left in vehicles, short-snout dogs are more susceptible to heat injury and should not left unattended in the heat, she said.
At PACC all animals are housed in inside or inside/outside areas. Hassen-Auerbach said she took to social media to ask the community to donate watermelons to help keep the animals cool and was surprised at the overwhelming response.
"It's crazy. I just put a picture on social media," she said. "We asked (Monday) for donations and we've gotten so many watermelons donated, I think we're going to end up with about 300. They love them as treats and it's very cute to see a dog eat a watermelon."