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  • Keeping Pets Safe During the Dog Days of Summer

    Jack Russell dog sitting in front of a domestic electric fan - dog days

    As we enter the dog days of summer, it’s a great time to think about dogs, cats, and other pets, and how to prepare them for the summer’s heat.

    A pet outside in hot weather is like a person outside in hot weather — only in a fur coat and barefoot, said Deann Shepherd, the director of marketing and communications at the Humane Society of Utah.

    So start preparing with grooming and skin care. Don’t shave a dog or cat; fur helps prevent sunburn. But do get shedding fur off and provide pet sunblock (available online and at pet stores).

    Avoid walking with pets on asphalt — its heat can burn the pads of pets’ feet.

    Just as people need more water during the summer, so do pets. And just as most people don’t enjoy drinking hot water, neither do pets, Shepherd said.

    Change the water in pet bowls throughout the day so it doesn’t become too warm. Consider adding ice to the water. If you’re taking a pet outside for a longer time, bring a collapsible water bowl.

    Change the animal’s diet too.

    Freeze-dried Dog food - dog daysWet pet food can spoil faster in summer’s heat, so use more dry food. Freeze foods pets normally eat, or make treats like frozen meat or peanut butter popsicles. Emergency Essentials sells freeze-dried pet food that can work as a warm-weather treat.

    Avoid freezing hazardous foods like onion, grapes, avocados, and chocolate. The Humane Society has a list of foods to avoid.

    Learn signs of heat sickness in pets. Since dogs and cats don’t sweat, they can easily overheat, Shepherd said.

    The easiest sign of heat distress is panting. That’s how many animals cool themselves. Shepherd suggested pet owners also watch for lethargy and disinterest in normal activities, excessive and ropy salivation, brick red gums or a dark mouth, fast pulse, and vomiting or diarrhea.

    The fastest way to cool a pet is with cool — not cold — water. The American Red Cross says a garden hose is the easiest cooling tool.

    If that’s all too hard to remember, the Red Cross offers a pet first aid app.

    Pets are most likely to overheat in a car, whether the windows are open or not. Pet owners should never leave animals in a vehicle on a hot day, even for a few minutes. Shepherd recalled an experiment in which the Humane Society of Utah director sat in a car with the windows cracked open for 20 minutes on a 91-degree day. The temperature in the car hit more than 120 degrees.

    “For a pet, it would have been fatal,” Shepherd said.

    She said the best place for a pet on a hot day is inside in a cool room.

    “If you can’t take a pet into [wherever you’re going], just leave them at home,” she said.

    Finally, prepare pets to spend time outside by making sure they are tagged with microchips and keep microchip information updated. Shelters look for microchips when they are brought lost or runaway pets. The Humane Society of Utah offers free microchip clinics throughout the year, Shepherd said, and many other places offer microchip insertion for $20 to $30.

    Talk to animal experts about other ways to prepare pets for summer. Reptiles will often hide under rocks or in shade; hedgehogs can be especially particular about temperatures, Shepherd said. It boils (pardon the pun) down to this: treat pets as we’d like to be treated in the heat.

    “If it’s hot for us, of course it’s hot for them,” she said.

     

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  • Take Severe Thunderstorm Warnings Seriously

    Admit it: when the National Weather Service issues a severe thunderstorm warning, most of us respond with a yawn.

    Well, maybe we shouldn’t. So far this year, eight U.S. natural disasters have caused $1 billion or more in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Six of those billion-dollar disasters were severe thunderstorms. (The tally doesn’t include the recent West Virginia flooding, because losses are still being calculated. Also, seven of the eight disasters were in Texas. Apparently, Mother Nature disagrees with the slogan “Don’t Mess With Texas.”)

    A thunderstorm is severe if it does one of three things: has winds of 58 miles per hour or higher, produces hail at least an inch or larger in diameter or creates a tornado. All of these components can be dangerous to both people and property.

     

    Wind

    Severe Thunderstorm

    Severe thunderstorms can bring gusts of more than 100 miles per hour, equivalent to an EF1 tornado. High wind can knock down power lines, lop off branches and topple trees on to homes and cars. It can knock vehicles off the road. According to weather.com, in 2014, high winds from thunderstorms killed 33 people and injured 240. This weekend, three people drowned in Lake Michigan when high wind whipped up the water.

    Prepare for high wind by removing dead and rotting trees and branches. Pay attention to weather reports and be willing to change plans. Hours before the Lake Michigan drownings, the National Weather Service issued a beach hazard statement that warned of dangerous swimming conditions. If weather reports say a severe thunderstorm is coming, bring in patio furniture and other things that can become projectiles.  Keep a cooler and ice around to store food in case of a power outage. After the storm passes, remain cautious. Assume downed power lines are still active.

     

    Lightning

    Lighning strikes severe thunderstorm

    Every year, lightning kills an average of 51 people and injures hundreds, according to ready.gov. A home in south Florida had its wall shredded by a lightning strike that also knocked out power. If outside, pay attention to weather reports and be ready to seek shelter if lightning is in the vicinity. If inside, stay away from windows, doors and plumbing – bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity. Unplug electrical devices to protect them from surges.

     

    Hail

    At least half of the cost of damage from severe thunderstorms is from hail, according to weather.com. Quarter-size hail can damage roof shingles. Golf ball-size hail can dent vehicles. Baseball-size hail can smash windshields and softball-size hail can poke holes in roofs. If a severe thunderstorm warning says large hail is possible, try to find a covered place for a vehicle, and find shelter.

     

    Flash flooding

    Flash flooding is the biggest killer from thunderstorms, taking more than 140 people every year, according to ready.gov. Prepare for floods by making an emergency plan with alternate travel routes to shelters. Six inches of fast-moving water can knock a person down and two feet can sweep a car away. Pay attention to flash flood warnings.

     

    Tornadoes

    Tornado with Damage severe thunderstormA severe thunderstorm warning can quickly become a tornado warning if the storm develops enough rotation. If a severe thunderstorm warning includes the following warning: "Severe thunderstorms can and sometimes do produce tornadoes with little or no advance warning," treat it like a tornado warning, suggests weather.com.

     

    Severe thunderstorms are frequent enough to be easy to ignore. Yet severe thunderstorms can cause severe damage. So far this year they’ve accounted for more than $10 billion in damage and 17 deaths. Next time the National Weather Service announces a severe thunderstorm warning, don’t shrug it off.

     

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  • Hot Heat Fuels Dozens of Fires

    It’s simple. In the western United States, heat begets fire. As of June 26, 27 large fires are burning in 10 states. The worst situation is in California, where years of drought and tree death combined with temperatures above 100 degrees have contributed to six large fires. Here’s a look at some of the fires and some things we can learn from them.

     

    Active Fire Map June 27, 2016 - via someone

     

     Erskine (Calif.)

    “It was a firestorm,” one evacuee from the fire in South Lake, Calif., told the Los Angeles Times in an elementary school/evacuation center. He didn’t know if his house was still standing.

    The fire blasted into existence the afternoon of June 23. Fed by a 40 mph wind, temperatures above 90 degrees and bone-dry grass, it traveled 11 miles in 13 hours.

    It burned through power and phone lines, knocking out both landline and cell phone service. Sheriff deputies, going door-to-door to warn residents, had to run from the fire. A couple died trying to escape. Three firefighters were injured.

    So far, more than 225 buildings and almost 60 square miles have burned. Another 2,500 homes are still threatened and six communities evacuated. The fire is only 10 percent contained, and evacuees may not return home because of fears wind shifts could send the fire in different directions.

    When it comes to fire, be prepared to run for it. Have go-bags packed and in an accessible place.

    An evacuee, Magan Weid, told the Los Angeles Times, “Everything was flying into your eyes. I didn’t have time to get glasses. I literally just grabbed a bag with miscellaneous crap. I didn’t have time to get anything together.”

    Include prescription medicines and copies of prescriptions. One evacuee worried because she and her husband left without his heart medication.

    “I don’t know where to go,” she told the Los Angeles Times.

    Have copies of vital records. In her haste, one woman left behind her Social Security card and birth certificate. All she had were her pajamas and contents of her car.

    Keep a full tank of gas. One man said he and his neighbors created a mini traffic jam in their haste to leave. Another jumped into his car only to discover its tank was low. Fortunately, he made it out.

     

    Reservoir/Fish (Calif.)

    Dual fires northeast of Los Angeles have burned about 5,000 acres since June 20. 858 homes were evacuated. On June 22, residents of 534 were allowed to go home.

    When you’re preparing to evacuate, be prepared for a long stay.  Have something to do in your go bag. Have a way to recharge a phone. Make sure you’ve got a place for pets. Many shelters won’t allow pets unless they’re service animals.

     

    Dog Head (N.M.)

    Fire via AP Home burning - photo via AP

    The Dog Head fire in central New Mexico burned almost 18,000 acres and destroyed 12 homes and 44 other structures. It is 90 percent contained.

    It could have been worse if thinning out dead trees had not taken place, said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, who toured the area June 24. In California, according to a report released June 22, 66 million trees have died in the last five years, and only 77,000 have been cut down.

    If you live in wildfire country, clear an area about 30 feet around your home of anything that might burn, like wood piles, dried leaves, and brush. Keep the roof and gutters clean.

     

    Saddle (Utah)

    Lightning on June 13 caused the Saddle fire in southern Utah. A voluntary evacuation is still in place for the nearby town of Pine Valley. The fire spread in part because three times in a week, drones grounded firefighting aircraft.

    Don’t be stupid. This time of year, as temperatures climb and vegetation dies, the western U.S. is a tinderbox. Fire restrictions are in place in southern Utah and Arizona. Obey them. Don’t do anything that might ignite dry vegetation. When there is a fire, be aware of emergency vehicles.

     

    Cedar (Ariz.)

    Firefighters are beginning to consider the aftermath of the Cedar fire, which has been burning since June 15. The fire, which burned 46,000 acres, was 60 percent contained Sunday.

    It burned during a period of horrendous temperatures. Six people died from heat. Temperatures exceeded 120 degrees in parts of Arizona.

    Ready.gov has several suggestions for keeping safe during extreme heat.

    Excessive heat warnings and heat alerts are still in effect in many places in the west. Be smart and be safe, especially during the holiday weekend ahead.

     

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