Posted at: 08/24/2013 9:35 PM
Updated at: 08/25/2013 4:40 PM
By: Stephen Tellier
Minnesota State Fair officials and fairgoers braced on a steamy Sunday for what could be the hottest stretch of weather at the event in 65 years.
An excessive heat warning took effect Sunday and runs through Tuesday for a large part of southern Minnesota and surrounding states, while a heat advisory covers the rest of the southern two-thirds of the state. Highs have been forecast to hit the 90s, with heat indexes to reach 100 to 110. Nighttime conditions aren't expected to cool below the 70s to lower 80s.
Fair officials said they were working closely with emergency services at Regions Hospital and the St. Paul Fire Department to ensure that guests who need medical attention get it promptly. They said 51 people were treated for heat-related issues Saturday, including 10 who had to go to the hospital.
The National Weather Service said the temperature on the fairgrounds was 96 at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Misters were set up at two medical aid stations on the fairgrounds to cool off guests. Several businesses and booths also have misting fans.
Marching band directors were told that their musicians must bring cooler clothing instead of their regular uniforms. An ambulance will follow bands in parades, and another will be stationed at the end of parade routes.
There are 40 drinking fountains on the grounds. Many businesses and vendors also give away free water. The fair also allows visitors to bring coolers with their own ice and water.
Fair officials said they have a heat emergency plan in place, which would be triggered by a heat index of 100 degrees or more persisting for at least three hours. That would mean more misters and water stations set up across the fairgrounds, as well as the St. Paul Fire Department bringing in more equipment and personnel to help with the situation.
Across the region, emergency physicians expect to see an increase in patients with heat-related illnesses this week.
While children younger than 5 and elderly people are among those most vulnerable, anyone can become ill because of the heat, especially if they don't have access to air conditioning or if they're participating in strenuous outdoor activities. Beer, alcohol and soda can lead to dehydration, said Dr. Casey Woster, an emergency department physician at Regions Hospital.
"So if it's hot out and you're outside, it's more important to drink water and Gatorade and things like that," he said.
Woster said feeling lightheaded or confused can be signs of heat-related illnesses or heatstroke. He also said people may presume they're OK if they stop sweating, but that's a mistake.
"Actually, people become more ill once they stop sweating," Woster said.
Click here for tips on staying cool from the Minnesota Department of Health.
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