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From sizzle to drizzle: Rain, cooler temps expected this week


Tobacco crops like this have been damaged by prolonged exposure to extreme heat this summer.


Tyler Stocks

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Being outdoors should become a little more tolerable as cooler temperatures are expected over the next few days.

National Weather Service Meteorologist John Elardo said a cold front is expected to move through the Greenville area and bring rain showers, thunderstorms and temperatures in the lower to mid 80s.

“It will be much noticeably cooler Wednesday,” Elardo said.

During the rest of the week, the National Weather service projects partly cloudy skies and temperatures ranging from the mid- to high 80s during the day and the mid 60s at night.

Crop damage

For farmers in Pitt County, however, the cooler temperatures have come a little too late as their crops have been damaged by the long stretches of hot and dry temperatures this summer.

“(The heat) is definitely affecting (crops) pretty bad,” Pitt County Agricultural Extension Director, Carrie Ortel said.

The problem for crops hasn’t been just the temperatures but the duration of repeated hot and dry temperatures, which has affected growth.

“The hot and dry May put us behind in planting and the crops we did have in the ground at the time, they were pretty hurt and stunted from that. Since then, we’ve been trying to recover but we’ve not really had great weather to do that,” Ortel said.

Corn has taken the brunt of the damage, followed by the tobacco crop.

“A lot of the corn was in pollination during this hot, dry period and so that really hurt the yield potential that we’re going to have for that corn crop this year,” Ortel said. We’ve seen a lot of damage to corn and that’s mostly because the timing of it all.”

Tobacco crops in some areas of the county have been ravaged by diseases that are related to humidity.

“We’ve had a lot of disease incidents this year because of the high humidity and heat,” Ortel said.

Other crops like cotton are expected to be fine.

“Cotton is a fairly heat-tolerant crop so it’s looking pretty good out there,” Ortel said. “It was planted in the really hot and dry May time frame and ended surprisingly well from that. We’re hoping to see a good cotton crop this year.”

The maximum optimal temperature for most field crops, according to Ortel, is 86 degrees.

Temperatures during the past week have been in the upper 90s with heat index values of more than 100 degrees.

“It doesn’t get detrimental until we stay hot for a really long time, which is what we’re experiencing,” Ortel said. Everyone is doing the best they can. A lot of this is out of our control.

There’s only so much we can do to manage it well in this situation,” she said. “Every year has it’s own challenges and this year, we’re definitely seeing the high heat as a challenge.”

First responders

The hot temperatures also have been causing problems for first responders, who have seen an uptick in heat-related emergencies.

Greenville Fire-Rescue was overwhelmed during President Donald Trump’s Keep America Great rally at Minges Coliseum, as 105 patients were treated for heat-related emergencies.

“We were picking up two and three people at the time,” Greenville Fire-Rescue Chief Eric Griffin said. “We either helped get them cooled down or got them to a space where they could be assessed and released.”

Griffin also said five people were transported from the rally to Vidant Medical Center, however, some of those patients had other pre-existing conditions which were worsened by the heat.

Since the rally, GFR has stayed busy responding to heat-related emergencies across the city, most involving elderly patients.

Between June 22 and Sunday, GFR has responded to 77 calls that appeared to be related to heat exhaustion or dehydration, according to a fact sheet that was distributed to the media on Monday afternoon.

Adults 60 and older accounted for most of the calls.

During the same time period last year, GFR responded to 65 calls, the fact sheet noted.

“I would encourage everyone to stay as hydrated as possible,” Griffin said, adding that first responders took that advice themselves, drinking water and sports drinks throughout their shifts.

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566. Follow him on Twitter @Tylerstocks1987