NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — That heat isn’t just unpleasant, it can be dangerous.
Old Dominion University Professor Dr. Michael Allen says on average, heat kills more people every year than weather events like hurricanes and tornadoes, which is why he is urging people to pay attention and stay inside as much as possible during this heat wave.
According to the National Weather Service, heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States.
“Last year in Virginia in July, we had 1,000 hospitalizations related to heat. You might say, ‘There’s a lot of people in Virginia.’ Yes, but 1,000 people going to the hospital purely for heat is a pretty significant burden for the healthcare system,” said Allen, who is ODU’s geography program director.
Allen says elderly people or people with underlying health conditions are especially at risk in the heat, but there are things people can do to stay safe.
“We can think about reducing our risk by just staying inside, drinking more water, checking up on our neighbors, really simple things,” Allen said.
He also says the nighttime hours, when places like cooling centers are closed, can be riskier.
“Yesterday we had a low temperature of 82, currently we’re sitting at a low temperature of 81 in Norfolk from 4:30 a.m. and those low temperatures are often much more deadly because at night, if you have a temperature that’s at 80 degrees-plus, your air conditioner can’t keep up,” said Allen.
Allen believes heat waves will only continue to get longer and become more frequent,which could have a huge impact on our health and the environment.
He said, “There’s a variety of health ramifications to heat, not only morbidity and mortality, but things like toxic algae blooms, heat also plays a role in the development of hurricanes.”
Allen also helped conduct a “heat study“ almost exactly one year ago, trying to determine the hottest sections of Norfolk.