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How to stay cool in Louisville during this week’s heat wave

Two girls get water dunked on them at splash park at Riverview Park on Thursday, July 27, 2023.
Debra Murray
Two girls get water dunked on them at splash park at Riverview Park on Thursday, July 27, 2023.

Temperatures in Louisville will be near 100 degrees this week, and health and weather experts are advising residents to be mindful of the heat.

With summer not technically set to begin until Thursday, Louisville and most of Kentucky is already feeling the heat. Louisville can expect a prolonged heat wave this week, according to the National Weather Service. Meteorologists and health professionals are encouraging everyone to pay attention and stay safe amid sweltering days and nights.

What to expect

Kentucky has gotten hotter over the years because of climate change, and this week is no exception. Louisville — one of the country’s fastest growing urban heat islands — will stay in the middle to upper 90s, Brian Schoettmer, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Louisville, said. At night, the temperature will stay in the 70s.

Most of the Southeast and East Coast are experiencing a high pressure heat wave this week, according to Schoettmer. Meteorologists are unsure when the pressure system will relent.

“It’s not really moving. It's just sitting there over the eastern half of the United States,” Schoettmer said. “The longer it sits there, the heat just builds.”

Kentucky’s generally sticky summers are also a factor in just how hot it feels. With more humidity, the heat index is expected to hit 100 degrees or higher through the week.

Ways to stay cool

Hydration is foundational to staying safe during hot weather, and that can include more than water. Norton Healthcare family medicine provider Dr. Joshua Brandon recommends water along with other drinks that include electrolytes, like sports drinks.

“That is one of the biggest mistakes we see is sometimes people just drink all over the water without any kind of electrolytes,” Brandon said. “And what ends up happening is they bottom-out sodium, magnesium, potassium [levels] and all the other things that are needed to sustain exercise.”

It’s especially important for people taking certain medications like water pills or blood pressure medicine.

“Over [those hot days], their blood pressure starts to bottom-out,” Brandon said. “Now they might be okay, just sitting there. But when they go from sitting to standing positional changes, exercising, walking up a flight of stairs, the body is not able to keep up.”

If you are outside, Brandon recommends wearing loose, lighter-colored clothes and seeking shade or air-conditioned shelter as often as possible.

Brandon said it’s also best to apply sunscreen with SPF 30 to 50 and reapply every two hours depending on the level of activity or every one hour during water activities.

Places to beat the heat

Louisville Metro Government currently operates two outdoor public pools and one indoor pool. The Algonquin pool in west Louisville is currently under renovation and expected to be open again next spring.

Public pools include:

  • Fairdale - Nelson Hornbeck Park (709 Fairdale Rd)
  • Sun Valley - Sun Valley Park (6505 Bethany Ln)
  • Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center (indoor) - Crescent Hill Park (201 Reservoir Rd)
  • E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park - (3000 Freys Hill Rd)

There are also dozens of outdoor spraygrounds and spray pads for families to stay cool this summer.

Local libraries across the city will also operate as places to keep cool throughout the week. As of Monday, the Louisville Metro officials activated Operation White Flag due to the high temperatures. Residents are advised to seek shelter if possible and several locations across the city will operate as cooling centers.

For those who did not have anywhere to stay during the intense heat, Wayside Christian Mission and the Salvation Army Center for Hope will offer temporary shelter during Operation White Flag.

Signs of heat-related illnesses

Brandon, with Norton Healthcare, said it’s best to pay attention to your body when you are outside in potentially dangerous temperatures.

“So often people try to power through, and that's where we run into issues with this,” he said. “The people that do the best, outcomes-wise, are the people who are able to start to see that maybe something is going on and get to shade or get to air-conditioning.”

Brandon said it’s important to know the difference between heat stress, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which affect people differently.

Heat stress occurs when someone is exposed to high temperature for a short period of time. The mild symptoms can include sweating and a “decreased capacity” to participate in physical activity.

Heat exhaustion occurs when temperatures hit 104 degrees or higher. Brandon said symptoms can include, fast heart rate, headache, dizziness, weakness and feeling clammy.

Heat stroke has more severe, neurological symptoms to look out for, he said. With this week’s forecast, Brandon said people are at high risk for heat stroke.

Symptoms can include confusion, losing consciousness, seizures and increased agitation. This is a “true medical emergency,” Brandon said, and anyone experiencing heat stroke should go to the hospital as soon as possible.

Giselle is LPM's breaking news reporter. Email Giselle at grhoden@lpm.org.

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