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County copes with heat wave

7/6/2010 11:00:00 PM

Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era

By TOM MURSE, Staff Writer

The temperature topped 100 again on Wednesday.

Nearly one-third of emergency room patients at Lancaster General Hospital in the last two days reported heat-related symptoms — dizziness, dehydration and chest pains, a spokeswoman said.

"A big one is shortness of breath, which we see a lot in the elderly and in babies," said Frieda Schmidt, spokeswoman for Lancaster General Health.

The Office of Aging announced it is expanding the hours of operation Thursday and Friday of seven "cooling stations," which are senior centers that have air-conditioning for those who don't have a way to cool off at home.

The office plans to keep the centers open longer whenever temperatures go above 90 degrees.

"There are plenty of places to sit and just relax and socialize and get a hot lunch," said Lon R. Wible, deputy director of the Office of Aging.

Temperatures surpassed record-high levels for the second straight day on Wednesday. The thermometer hit 100 in Millersville about 3:30 p.m., breaking a record high of 99 for July 7 set in 1988.

Temperatures have been in the mid-to upper 90s since Sunday.

The Manheim Township Ambulance Association had a crew of EMTs handing out bags of ice and bottled water to construction workers throughout the day Tuesday and Wednesday.

The rescuers also reminded crews to keep hydrated.

"We'd rather do it this way than get called out to a site for an emergency situation," said Dave Smith, the association's director of operations. "It's something small we can do."

The ambulance association called in extra crews so that some could deliver ice and water Wednesday. The workers were grateful.

"It's kind of like a surprise at first and then just gratitude," EMT Brent Riehl said.

Wednesday was the second straight day the thermometer topped 100. On Tuesday, it hit 101 at Lancaster Airport and 100 at Millersville University by mid-afternoon. That beat the record of 98 for July 6, which was set in 1999.

The normal high for this time of year is 86.

In Manheim Township, the suburb's public pools set attendance records. At the newly redesigned Skyline Pool on Eden Road, 365 people walked through the gates — well above the average of fewer than 100. On Monday, the township's two pools drew more than 1,000 guests, said Margie Earnest, the township's recreation director.

"We've definitely set and broken records this year," she said.

No one wants to play golf, though. The township didn't open its miniature gold course on Wednesday because it drew only one customer the day before.

"They're not out there golfing," Earnest said. "They're at the pool."

By this time of year, the county normally has gotten about 21 inches of precipitation. To date, we've seen slightly more than 18 inches.

The last substantial rainfall was on June 6, when nearly three-quarters of an inch fell at Lancaster Airport.

The intense heat and dry weather, which are favored by some types of farmers, are now taking a toll on all crops.

"It's starting to turn into a bad thing," said Steve Groff, who runs a 215-acre farm in Holtwood. Groff grows tomatoes, sweet corn, pumpkins and soybeans, among other vegetables.

"What I'm able to get water on is looking good, but I don't have enough water to go everywhere," he said. "We're reaching a time here where, if we don't get rain this weekend, then things are going to start to go downhill quickly."

Field corn and soybeans are starting to dry out now and, without rain, will be less abundant and, as a result, more expensive at the checkout aisle.

"Yields potentially will diminish rapidly," Groff said. "There comes a point where you can't make up for a lack of rainfall."

There might be some relief in sight. The high Thursday should be in the lower 90s, with a mix of sun and clouds and a chance of storms.


 VIDEO: AccuWeather Forecast


Friday will be only 88 to 92 degrees.

A cold front will approach the area Saturday evening, providing the best chance of rainfall, according to Millersville University's Weather Information Center.

Saturday and Sunday will be in the mid 80s.



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