Heat Wave: A Major Summer
Killer in Wisconsin
From the Warning Coordination Meteorologists at National Weather
Service Offices servicing Wisconsin
Wisconsin normally doesn't experience many
heat waves, and is better known for its cold, snowy winters.
However, killer heat waves have and will continue to affect the Badger
During the summer of 1995, two killer heat
waves affected most of Wisconsin. Together, they resulted in 154
heat-related deaths and probably 300 to 400 heat-related
This makes the combined 1995 summer heat waves the
biggest weather-related killers in Wisconsin for the past 50 years, far
exceeding tornado deaths.
The 8-day heat wave in June 1995 claimed
11 lives, while the 3-day super heat wave of July 13-15 claimed 140
lives (70 directly related and 70 indirectly related).
the deaths occurred in the major urban centers of southeast Wisconsin,
with the elderly and young being the highest risk groups.
July 1999 featured heat waves on the 4th
and 5th, the 23rd through the 25th, and the 29th through the
31st. Collectively, these heat waves were responsible for 20
deaths (12 directly and 8 indirectly).
Several heat waves from mid-July through early August 2001 claimed
15 fatalities (10 direct and 5 indirect) across Wisconsin.
Probably 300 or more were treated at hospitals for heat
Temperatures topped out in the mid to upper
90s. However, on August 7th, they topped out at 102 at Mt. Mary
College in Milwaukee and 101 in Buffalo and Trempealeau counties.
HEAT WAVE FACTS:
Heat waves usually consist of high
temperatures and high relative humidity. This combination makes
it difficult for the human body to dissipate heat through the skin and
Sweating will not cool the human body unless the
water is removed by evaporation. High relative humidity
consequently retards evaporation. Certain medications can also
make it difficult for a person to sweat.
The National Weather Service (NWS) uses
the "HEAT INDEX" as a measure of the combined affects of
high temperatures and high relative humidity.
Research findings strongly suggest the
HEAT INDEX (HI) values of 90 to 105 make sunstroke, heat
cramps, and heat exhaustion possible with prolonged exposure
and/or physical activity.
Research findings strong suggest that HI
values of 105 to 130 degrees make sunstroke, heat cramps, and
heat exhaustion likely with prolonged exposure and/or physical
The NWS issues Heat Advisories when
it expects daytime HIs to equal or exceed 105 for 3 hours or more
while nighttime HIs equal or exceed 80 (75 for South-central and
Southeast Wisconsin), for any 24-hour period.
The NWS issues Excessive Heat Warnings when it expects
daytime HIs to equal or exceed 115 (110 for South-central and
Southeast Wisconsin) for 3 hours or more while nighttime HIs equal or
exceed 80 for any 24-hour period.
The NWS may issue an
"Excessive Heat Watch" 24 to 8 hours in advance of heat wave
WHAT YOU AND YOUR FAMILY CAN DO:
Slow down (reduce outdoor activities)
Dress for summer (wear lightweight light-colored
plenty of water or other non-alcohol fluids (check with your doctor if
you are on medications or have a problem with fluid retention)
more time in air conditioned places
If your home doesn't have air conditioning:
Spend some time in an air conditioned facility during
the worst of the heat
Or sit in a bath tub containing cool water
Don't get too much sun (sunburn makes it more difficult to cool
Keep in mind that the young, elderly,
people on medication, and people with weight or alcohol problems are
at a greater risk during heat waves. Certain medications may
"turn off" the sweating mechanism in some people, thus
making it very difficult for them to cool down by sweating.
common sense, and use the buddy system - frequently contact those
individuals who are at a greater risk and help them obtain relief from
the heat and humidity.
Last Updated: March 23, 2011