HERE COMES THE HEAT
Record-setting heat is blasting big sections of the country this week. California is hitting new heat records, the Los Angeles Times reported (see: "California sees some of highest temperatures ever recorded amid heat wave," by Paloma Esquivel, Louis Sahagun and Gary Robbins). "The temperature hit 124 degrees on Tuesday in Ocotillo Wells," the Times reported — "the highest reading ever recorded in San Diego County, according to the National Weather Service." “The desert has two seasons — hot and hotter,” said Mark Moede, a weather service forecaster. “But today, it was hottest.”
The heat was blamed for two deaths in the Bay Area, and outdoor workers were taking precautions to avoid heat injury, according to a report from CBS station KPIX 5 (see: "South Bay Grapples With Deadly Heat Wave"). For advice on an effective heat injury prevention program based on California worker safety rules, check the May issue of JLC (see: "Working Safely in Hot Weather," by Moe Davis).
Hot weather is making it tough on wildland firefighters in the west, reported the Missoulian (see: "Extreme heat making wildfire battle tougher in Southwest US," by Astrid Galvan and Angie Wang - Associated Press). "In California, two firefighters were treated for heat-related injuries as they battled a blaze in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles," the paper reported. "In Arizona, about 100 firefighters battled a 2-square-mile (5-sq. kilometer) blaze believed to have been ignited by lightning Tuesday in triple-digit temperatures in Sonoita, 45 miles southeast of Tucson."
As the planet warms (which most experts agree is almost certain to happen in the coming century), heat waves will be increasingly common — lending urgency to efforts at reducing carbon emissions from man-made sources, including houses. The New York Times this week offered a graphic look at what awaits the world if emissions are not curbed (see: "95-Degree Days: How Extreme Heat Could Spread Across the World," by Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich). "By 2100, Washington could swelter in 95-degree weather for fully one-fifth of the year — around 74 days, on average. Large swaths of Brazil and sub-Saharan Africa would experience these temperatures for most of the year," the paper reported.
CINDY SOAKS THE GULF COAST
Tropical storm Cindy came on shore this week, bringing heavy rains. The Weather Underground's Category 6 blog has been tracking the storm (see: "Tropical Storm Cindy Makes Landfall Near the Texas/Louisiana Border," and "Tropical Depression Cindy Slogs Through Arkansas," by Dr. Jeff Masters). "As of 4 am CDT Thursday, the highest rainfall amount observed so far from Cindy was 8.50 inches in Wiggins, Mississippi," Masters reported. "Gulfport-Biloxi Airport in Mississippi picked up 8.43 inches of rain in the 36 hours ending 4 a.m. CDT Thursday. In Florida, 8.25 inches in Navarre was the top total... The storm will continue to be a hefty rainmaker, with widespread rain amounts of 3 – 6 inches likely along its track as far north as Kentucky."
As Cindy spawned scattered tornadoes along its track, the Weather Channel was tracking the storm's progress and aftermath on Friday (see: "Tropical Depression Cindy State by State: Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia Prepare for Flooding Rain as Alabama Recovers from Tornado,") by Sean Breslin and Pam Wright). Kevin Laws of the National Weather Service drew a lesson from one destroyed building: a liquor store where shelves full of bottles stood intact in the center of the shattered building. "This is why we tell people to go into interior rooms," said Laws, "because the interior of a structure is the last thing to go."
LONDON TOWER FIRE SPARKS U.S. CODE SCRUTINY
The tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London, England, is making news worldwide. In the wake of the disaster, fingers are pointing at the building's deadly flaws: a lack of sprinkler systems, and a dangerously flammable plastic-core aluminum cladding. The Independent reported this week on moves to retrofit sprinklers in other London high-rises (see: "Grenfell Tower fire: London council to install sprinklers in 25 tower blocks in move to increase resident safety," by Rachael Revesz). "Angry protesters, councillors and residents have questioned why Kensington and Chelsea Council did not provide fireproof cladding on the building during refurbishment in 2016, why the alarms did not work, and why there were no sprinklers installed," the paper noted.
Other high-rises in London also use the cladding that helped fuel the Grenfell Tower fire, the New York TImes reported (see: "After London Fire, 11 More High-Rises Found With Combustible Material," by Sewell Chan and Stephen Castle). "The cladding on the building — sheets of aluminum composite material, encasing a flammable polyethylene insulation — has been associated with high-rise fires in other countries and its use is restricted in the United States and elsewhere," the paper reported. "It was permitted under British regulations, even though safety experts have long warned the metal sheets could melt under intense heat, allowing a blaze to race through the combustible material between them."
But could a similar catastrophe happen in the United States? Local news outlets are raising the question in multiple states. Here's a sampling:
- "Why some Palm Beach high rises have no fire protection systems," by Maxine Bentzel (CBS12.com);
- "London fire brings safety concerns for high-rise apartments in Charlotte," by Ty Chandler (WCNC.com)
- "Could high-rise fire happen in Jacksonville again?" by Jim Piggott (News4JAX.com)
- "London high-rise fire raises concern in Lowcountry," by Devin Negrete (WSAV.com)