FORT WALTON BEACH — If you're looking for some relief from the summer heat this weekend, you might want to stay indoors.
The National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, said forecasters expect this weekend to be the hottest weekend of the year.
"The heat index (will be) soaring above 110 degrees near the coast on both Saturday and Sunday," the agency said Friday morning.
The NWS issued a heat advisory for portions of Alabama and a "hazardous weather outlook" for all of Northwest Florida, in effect from noon until 7 p.m. Friday. Forecasters could issue heat advisories for more places as temperatures begin rising on Saturday morning.
“We’re expecting temperatures to be in the mid-90s most everywhere, and combined with the continuation of high humidity, we’ll be looking at heat indices easily between 100 and 105," said John Purdy, a meteorologist with NWS Mobile. "There will be areas, especially along the coast, that could see heat indices between 105 to 110.”
Purdy said the NWS has issued only one heat advisory so far this summer.
David Vaughan, the Beach Safety Director for Walton County, said lifeguards typically treat between one to two people per day for heat-related illnesses on the beach. Thankfully, none have been life-threatening so far, but this weekend guards will be extra vigilant about reminding people to be safe while they’re enjoying the sun and surf.
“We do a lot of medial training, especially this time of year,” Vaughan said. “What we do is we get out and we talk to people and we just like to remind them…to drink plenty of water. People get into vacation mode and they won’t stay hydrated, or they’ll drink a lot of adult beverages, a lot of sugary drinks.”
Vaughan said people not bringing enough water and shade to the beach are the number one cause of heat-related illnesses for beachgoers.
“Bring a lot of water, bring adequate shade, bring sunscreen, and bring clothing that’s light and loose-fitting but provides adequate coverage,” Vaughan said. “A good, loose-fitting hat made of a light, fibrous material—the ‘dad hat,’ as we like to call it—may not be fashionable, but they’re very functional.”
Although temperatures are expected to rise this weekend and have been consistently high all summer, Purdy said that’s not unusual for this time of year. The heat indices are slightly higher than last year, but the warming trend is nothing to worry about, he said.
“I think last year was a little bit cooler,” he said. “Especially with the long stretches of high temperatures, but we’ve had some breaks in the weather.”
The National Weather Service urges people to “beat the heat” by being mindful of outside temperatures and finding ways to stay cool. According to the agency, when the body heats too rapidly to cool itself properly, or when too much fluid or salt is lost through dehydration or sweating, body temperature rises and people may experience a heat-related illness.
Signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, excessive sweating, clammy skin, nausea, changes in pulse and muscle cramps. Signs of heat stroke include a throbbing headache, no sweating, dry skin, vomiting, rapid pulse and loss of consciousness.
Purdy said the earliest Northwest Florida can expect to see even minor relief from the heat is late August.
Vaughan added that lifeguards consider the hours between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. “prime time” for heat-related illness calls, and urged people to be mindful of the heat when they venture out to the beach this weekend.
“We want people to have fun, but have fun safely,” he said. “We want people to be empowered visitors.”