Staying Safe During the Heat

With high temperatures expected to climb well into 90s as we start a new work week—and heat index values soaring into the 100s by Tuesday—it’s important to take the proper precautions to beat the heat!

Hazy, hot and humid weather is not uncommon in the Stateline.  However, with the spike in temperatures coming so late in the summer season, many area school districts are dismissing students early.  To find out if your local school is on the early dismissal list, click HERE.

If you plan on being outside in the heat, make sure you stay hydrated and drink plenty of water!  When exercising or working outdoors, don’t overdo it.  Take plenty of breaks and look for shade if possible.  Check on your elderly relatives, friends, and neighbors.  Keep an eye on your kids and don’t leave them in the car; temperatures can be 20 degrees hotter in a closed vehicle.  And let’s not forget to keep our pets cool, either!

The heat will stick around beyond Tuesday, with highs topping out a degree or two on either side of 90.  By Labor Day weekend, temperatures and humidity levels will rise once again!

-Joe

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Posted under health, heat wave, safety, weather

This post was written by qni_it on August 25, 2013

Welcome to ‘Ragweed Season’

994267_10152117984049167_1623300699_nNormally I don’t wake up at 8 in the morning (since I don’t get off of work until 11:30 or midnight), but they’re putting sewer pipes in my neighborhood so the jackhammer got me right up. Instead of staying at home, getting a headache, I put my kayak on the Kishwaukee River at Atwood Park. Let me tell ya, you can tell we’re in need of rain. The water level is quite low! I took this photo on my journey. In 2 hours, I saw no one (unless you count the turtles, fish, birds, and the snake that scared the @*#& out of me).

The only thing that brought this day down was the fact that I sneezed about five times. (Maybe that’s why there weren’t too many birds on the river now that I think about it.)

While I didn’t see any ragweed, I know it’s that time of year. I’ve been a ragweed sufferer since I was a kid with the itchy eyes and sneezes. 1For years, I’ve cursed at the ragweed growing along fenceposts and ditches around here. Their long stalks and bright yellow flowers. It wasn’t until I got to work today and read more about how ragweed affects me that I realized I’ve been cursing at the wrong plant! For years, I’ve mistaken “Canadian Goldenrod” for ragweed. And when you look at them, they’re very similar. This is goldenrod (to the left). The biggest difference is the leaves. Goldenrod has long, slender leaves. Ragweed has jagged leaves (not too unlike an oak tree leaf). No need to worry about goldenrod as it doesn’t even produce pollen in the air. Instead, it’s pollinated by insects. Ragweed, on the other hand, looks like a jagged ball under the microscpoe…and is definitely airborne!

3Ragweed grows better when it’s wet out. (Definitely the case earlier this summer). However during dry stretches of weather, (like now) the pollen is carried freely in the air for up to five miles! But when it rains, the pollen falls out of the air so we sufferers can breathe a little easier. Unfortunately, ragweed will continue to bloom well into the late summer, early autumn timeframe. The first frost usually kills the blooms off…ending our sniffling and sneezing. But here in Northern Illinois, that isn’t expected until the latter week of September or the first week of October.

2So why am I allergic to ragweed and Meteorologist Joe Astolfi is not? 1 in 7 people’s bodies “overdo” the immune response to inhaling ragweed. Too many antibodies are released which create histamine. This causes the runny nose, swollen, watery, and itchy eyes, coughing, mucus, sneezing, rashes, and occasionally asthma. Luckily, most of us can take care of this with an over-the-counter medicine. If that doesn’t do the trick, you may have to run a HEPA Filter or the air conditioning.

A side effect to global climate change could be more ragweed! Increased Carbon Dioxide in the air increases the pollen production from ragweed.

Keep watching 13News as our partnership with the Winnebago County Health Department continues. They count the pollen in the air every day. You can get the updated numbers on 13News at Noon and 5.

sources: Minnesota Department of Agriculture Extension Office, Airgle.

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Posted under 13 Climate Authority, climate/climate change, health, safety, statistics, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on August 14, 2013

Check your Indoor Humidity

Temperatures will dip below zero tonight, making it uncomfortable (and downright dangerous) to be outside. But if you don’t have the right amount of humidity inside, you could be uncomfortable too!

There’s a very easy way to check your indoor humidity too. Just put a few ice cubes in a glass of water, stir, and wait a few minutes. If you have the right amount of humidity in the air, you’ll see a few droplets of condensation on the outside of the glass.

If you don’t have the right level of humidity, put water in a humifier. You’ll notice a different result in our trick after a few hours. And you’ll feel much better! One night running a humidifier will also improve that cracked, dry skin this time of year. Having a few healthy houseplants in each room can do the same thing, but be sure to water them more frequently this time of year! -Eric

 

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Posted under cold blast, health

This post was written by qni_it on January 21, 2013

Be smart when burning this fall!

The recent windy, cool weather has caused quite a few people to get outside to burn unwanted leaves, brush, and wood. While we are all aware of the danger of burning in dry or windy weather, the Environmental Protection Agency has a few less-known tips so you can stay safe, be efficient, and earth-friendly!

First, burn only dry, seasoned wood. Properly seasoned wood burns hotter, producing more heat and less pollution. Seasoned wood is darker, has cracks in the end grain, and sounds hollow when struck against another piece of wood.

Use a moisture meter. Wood burns best when the moisture content is 20%. If you are a regular to the wood-burning scene, you can purchase a wood moisture meter for less than $20 to test the moisture content of the wood before you burn it.

Burn hot fires. Once you’ve enjoyed the warmth, many people think they should let a fire smolder overnight, but reducing the air supply does little for heating and increases air pollution. A smoldering fire isn’t efficient.

Start fires with newspaper or dry kindling. This increases burning efficiency.

Regularly remove ashes from your wood-burning appliances to maintain proper airflow. For safety, put ashes in a metal container with a cover and store outdoors.

Never burn painted or treated wood, moldy or wet wood, household garbage, cardboard, or driftwood. They can release toxic chemicals into the air – and your home. During the holidays, remember not to burn Christmas trees or wrapping paper!

You can learn more on the EPA’s Burn Wise website: www.epa.gov/burnwise

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Posted under going green, health, pollution, safety, science, wildfires

This post was written by qni_it on October 22, 2012

Allergies Ending?

Fall has finally arrived which means the eventual end to allergy season. If you are an allergy sufferer than you realized that this year’s season began much sooner than it normally does thanks to our abnormally hot March. Here in the Midwest pollen seasons vary plant to plant. Tree pollen tends to be highest February-June, grass pollen is highest May-August, ragweed is highest August-October, and mold can vary throughout the entire year. Even though the seasons do tend to vary, fall is almost always a welcome time for those that are allergy ridden. This is because whatever remaining pollen that is out there tends to die after the first frost of the year. A few of us experienced that two nights ago, and the rest of us could join those lucky few after Saturday night when our lows are expected to dip down to 32°. The end is in sight! -Greg

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Posted under cold blast, First Look, health

This post was written by qni_it on September 20, 2012

The Tables Have Turned

The summer of 2012 has been separated into two distinct parts for those of us in the Midwest. We had the heat riddled, rainless first half of the summer. That was follwed by the below average period with numerous rain events which we are currently in. We broke multiple high temperature records in July and ended up having our hottest July on record. Thankfully things have cooled down for now and we are in a period of much deserved relief. In Europe, however, the story is much different. As we currently sit with below average highs, they are going through quite the intense heat wave that is very reminiscent of our early July. France has seen high temperature records spanning back to 1922 broken, and multiple days of +100°F heat have taken much of the continent by storm. Everyone from Spain to Ukraine has felt the heat in the past several week, with the worst of it having come between Aug. 4-10th. This is slowly becoming the worst heat wave for France since 2003 which has medical experts over seas worried. Back in the heat wave of 2003, over 11,000 people died from heat related causes. This has prompted European hospitals to be on high alert in the coming days to attempt to avoid as many heat related casualties as possible. With some of Europe expected several more days of 100° heat still yet to come, now is our time to be thankful that our heatwave has ended. So get out there and enjoy those beautiful 70s and middle 80s this week! -Greg

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Posted under event, health, heat wave, news, record weather, weather

This post was written by qni_it on August 20, 2012

VIDEO: International Space Station captures Colorado wildfires

Check out this video from NASA. It shows the extent of the wildfires near Colorado Springs and the smoke plume that has made it over most of the Upper Midwest and Plains States.

You may have noticed a tinge of brown along the horizon due to the smoke from the fires. This will promote bad air quality for us tonight until the wind shifts. On the good side, it will make for a more brilliant sunset in a little over an hour from now. -ES

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Posted under drought, health, news, pollution, space, wildfires

This post was written by qni_it on June 28, 2012

Where to Beat the Heat

A 100-degree high temperature is in the forecast for the first time in a long time for our region.  And we must plan and act accordingly.  With temperatures climbing so high and the heat index making it feel even hotter, maintaining good health is important!

Be sure to avoid outdoor activity, especially during the hottest hours of the day (generally late morning through early afternoon).  If you must be outdoors, drink plenty of water and stay in the shade as much as possible.  NEVER leave children or pets in the car, and be sure to give plenty of water to our four-legged friends.  Also, it is important to check up on relatives or neighbors, particularly the elderly and those without air conditioning.

If you know someone who does not have access to air conditioning, please pass this information along.  The city of Rockford has numerous cooling sites that are free for everyone.  These sites are located throughout the city, such as the Salvation Army on 18th Avenue, Liberty Baptist Church on the southwest side, and many other locations close to downtown.  Furthermore, the Salvation Army and Keen Age Center in Belvidere will also open free cooling sites.

For all locations, addresses, and times, click the city of Rockford’s website here.  Let’s make sure we all stay safe during this heat wave! -JA

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Posted under health, heat wave, severe weather, sunlight

This post was written by qni_it on June 27, 2012

Greetings from Colorado!

Hello everybody! I hope you enjoyed what was hopefully Old Man Winter’s last winter storm on Friday. And why does it seem that when I go out of town some big weather event happens?

I’ve been keeping a diary of my trip so far with the hope that you’ll learn about some of the great things to see and do in Colorado! Frontier Airlines is the third airline to offer non-stop service from Chicago-Rockford International to Denver in recent years and we need to make sure it’s successful! And this is the time to plan a trip because fares can be found cheap online and a vacation can be planned pretty easily!

On Wednesday, my good friend Lauren Williams and I flew out of RFD to DIA, arriving just in time for 13News at Ten. With new 4GLTE technology, we quickly hooked up a Skype connection to announce that Alex Soulke from Rockford won our $1,500 trip to Denver! Perhaps this can be a guide for him as well.

On Wednesday night, we stayed at the Curtis Hotel, a wonderful eclectic hotel right next to the Denver Performing Arts Center. The hotel is funky with a modern feel. Every floor of the hotel has a different theme and everyone who arrives is greeted with fresh cookies! Next door to the hotel is the Corner Office Restaurant and Bar, a great stop for a great meal on your first night. The restaurant and bar have an upscale feel but in a relaxed environment.

We checked out of our cool hotel in Denver on Thursday morning and drove south on I-25. Just a few turns out of downtown I got my first glimpses of the Rocky Mountains. I can’t believe I am 36 years old and have never seen them! On the hour trip south to Colorado Springs, they are on your right side the whole way. Once we got to “The Springs” as locals call it, our first stop was Garden of the Gods, an amazing set of rock formations. Everyone should see this in their lifetime. The rocks jut right out of the ground and are gray, orange, and red. The park is completely free and it’s an easy hike on paved walks around all of them. Look carefully and you’ll see rock climbers several hundred feet above your head. And while we were there, a deer ran right in front of us…so be sure to remain on the lookout for wildlife.

On Thursday night, we had the opportunity to meet A.J. Longhenry who went by the name Jay Fields on WREX about 8 years ago. He and his wife took us to the Colorado Mountain Brewery, a restaurant similar to the Stone Eagle in Rockford (only with several microbrews). It was great to catch up with friends and share stories. It made us feel right at home.

We stayed at the Towneplace Suites in Colorado Springs (because I got a super good deal on priceline) and met a man who was from Rockford! Very small world. On Friday morning, I called the Pikes Peak Cog Railway in nearby Manitou Springs (a smaller version of Galena). We arrived around noon for the 2 hour trip up the mountain. The cog railway has “teeth” as a center rail which allows the train to climb very steep grades. There are many boulders the size of large houses just hanging on the side of the mountain. And as we went up, it got snowier and snowier! By about 10,000 feet you rise above the tree-line. (Trees can’t grow at the very high elevations due to the wind. Simply put, the wind is so strong, it blows the seeds right over the mountain, onto the “lower” elevations. Due to the fact it is March, the train currently does not go to the summit. Our conductor, Mel, told us that they are working every day to clear the tracks in hopes of clearing all of the snow by April. The top of the mountain gets 15-30 feet of snow January through March so it’s impossible to keep the area clear. On the ride up, we drank plenty of water. As you breathe in, you are not receiving as much oxygen so it’s essential to drink as you ascend. We packed some chips and noticed near the top that the bags were inflated and about to explode! That’s due to the lower air pressure on the bags. It was an eerie thing to witness to be sure. I wondered what it would’ve been like to bring blown-up balloons up the mountain. There’s no need to be scared as Mel told us that no visitors have been injured or killed on the railroad since it was built in the late 1800s. I asked him why they built the railroad and he said “Just to take in the view.”

Friday afternoon we drove north on I-25 back to Denver. We checked into the Oxford Hotel in the heart of “Lo Do.” The hotel is one of Denver’s nicest, oldest hotels. The staff here is great! Even though it is a higher-end hotel, there is quite a sense of “come as you are.” It’s very friendly and comfortable. We are right in the middle of the entertainment district with tons of small pubs and eateries. One of which you have to try: Illegal Petes! It’s a great little bar with a kitchen specializing in quick Mexican food. The burritoes looked awesome! You’ve got to try this place.

This morning we got up and drove westbound on I-70. About 25 miles west of downtown you begin your ascent into the mountains and let me tell you, it’s intense! The highway is so steep, it’s hard to maintain your speed. (Okay, part of that is due to the fact that there are large cliffs on the sides of the highway and I was scared to go faster.) There are several little mining towns that are worth a quick stop on the way up. About 45 minutes into the trip we encountered some serious snow! We knew something was up because signs were flashing telling truckers to put on chains. Luckily, I’m from Rockford and know how to drive in snow. The temperature was about 13 degrees at the top of the mountain, even though it was about 50 degrees in Denver! Without much notice you enter the Eisenhower Tunnel which goes right through the mountain at the Continental Divide. The divide is along the highest mountain peaks where water on the east side flows toward the Atlantic and the water on the west side flows toward the Pacific. Look closely and you’ll see a small sign in the middle of the long tunnel marking it.

Once you exit the tunnel, it’s back to winter driving but this time you’re going down…and it doesn’t last long. And after a few small exits (and runaway truck ramps) we arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado. The town was very quaint and VERY snowy! In fact, the main road was completely snowcovered as well as the sidewalks. There was also a flurry of people walking to and fro because it’s the weekend and there are many skiers and snowboarders around. I need a little more practice at Cascade Mountain and Alpine Valley before I try them, but next time I will for sure! Right in Breckenridge you can see the ski resorts on the mountain making for a great photo-op. While there, we stopped at “Downstairs at Eric’s,” a lively restaurant and bar. For the kids there are plenty of arcade games and for the adults there is great food! And I have to admit, I spent some spending cash in the gift shop there.

After a few hours in “Breck,” we headed back to Denver and to our hotel. Tonight, we’re going to just randomly pick a restaurant and tomorrow we’re headed to some of Denver’s museums. I’ll post a few more pictures either Sunday night or Monday on the last part of the trip. I can see how a lot of people in our area take our direct flights to Las Vegas because of the glitz, glamour, and gambling. However, coming to Denver (and Colorado) is much more breathtaking and in my opinion easier on the wallet and full of friendlier people.

Have a great weekend and let me know if you want more information on this type of trip! I’m by no means a travel planner after one trip, but I can help steer you in the right direction. -ES

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Posted under aviation, cold blast, event, health, humor, news, safety, snow, weather, weather geek, wildlife, Wind, winter storm

This post was written by qni_it on March 3, 2012

GUEST BLOG: A burning issue or a drop in the bucket?

The following blog article was written for Airways, the Rockford Asthma Consortium’s newsletter by Sara Powell. She was kind enough to share it.

And While this represents one side of this issue, we welcome a guest counter-point. If you would like to present the other side of the issue, please write to esorensen@wrex.com so we can present the other point of view. -ES

Leaf burning: A burning issue or a drop in the bucket? When the issue is leaf burning, it’s both.

The problem with leaf burning is that although the fire may be confined to an individual’s property, the smoke cannot be.  The recent ruling—to allow burning only in areas more than one mile from some urban areas in Winnebago County—works only if the smoke can somehow be restricted to a certain area.  Of course, it can’t, which is why the ruling is little better than allowing open burning in all unincorporated areas.

Anything in the air that irritates the lungs is a danger for people with asthma.  Even though the pollution from burning leaves may seem like just a little thing, a little thing in the air can cause big problems in the lungs.

Imagine a bucket of water that is full to the brim.  In fact, it’s so full that it’s almost overflowing, but not quite: If you were to add just one drop of water to this bucket, it would overflow.  The important thing is that it wouldn’t overflow by just one drop; a lot more than just that one drop would spill.

Asthma symptoms can be compared to this imaginary bucket full of water. Suppose your lungs have already been exposed to a lot of things that irritate them (things that irritate your lungs are called “triggers”), and your lungs are on the brink of showing symptoms; your “symptom bucket” is brim-full, and just one more little thing will make it overflow.  In other words, one more trigger that your lungs have to deal with will make your lungs react to everything they’re dealing with–not just the one thing that was too much.

To put it another way, let’s say your triggers include cats, dust, and leaf smoke.  If you are exposed to just one of them, you might not have noticeable symptoms, or your symptoms might be minor.  If, however, you are exposed to cats and dust and then are exposed to smoke, you would react noticeably to all three triggers, not just the final one (the smoke).  If you hadn’t been exposed to that smoke, you might not have had noticeable symptoms at all.

No one really knows when and how much they will react to a trigger. If you haven’t been exposed to many triggers recently and are exposed to one, you might have symptoms or you might not; there’s no good way to know how full your “trigger bucket” (also called “trigger load”) is.  Another way to phrase this is that everyone’s “tolerance” for triggers is different; the same person’s tolerance will be different on different days and at different times, and there is no good way to measure that tolerance.

Medication does help reduce the severity of symptoms, and may even help you react less frequently than you do without medication; however, the best way to avoid having symptoms, and to keep up your normal life, is to avoid triggers whenever possible.  Since it’s not possible to avoid smoke when someone is burning leaves, that’s just one more trigger that people who have asthma will be exposed to and one more trigger that may cause symptoms in people.

A lot of the discussion about leaf burning concerned the lack of low-priced alternatives to burning.  The statement was made that there were no “reasonable” alternatives to burning.  However, there are no alternatives to breathing, at any price.

For information on how to contact your representative on the Winnebago County Board, go to

http://www.comportone.com/getparent.html?cpo/govment/il-counties/winnebago/winnebago.htm,cpo/navi1.htm

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Posted under health

This post was written by qni_it on October 20, 2011