Black flags rise with the heat on Okinawa bases
August 4, 2003
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Black flags are flying on military bases, warning people on Okinawa to be careful while working and exercising outdoors.
With temperatures expected to continue increasing, the health warnings come as island residents experience one of the hottest summers on record.
On July 24, the mercury hit 94.6 degrees Fahrenheit, just two-tenths of a degree short of the July record set July 11, 1991.
July 24 was just 1.5 degrees short of the hottest day here ever — 96.1 degrees recorded Aug. 8, 2001, Okinawa Meteorological Observatory forecaster Asao Omura said.
This July has been the second-hottest in 50 years, Omura said, noting it’s also been one of the driest.
July brought just a little more than half an inch of rain (0.54 inches) during a period that historically soaks Okinawa with 7.04 inches, he said.
That could mean water rationing in the coming months.
The island’s reservoirs were at 74.5 percent capacity Friday, according to the water supply section of the Okinawa prefectural Enterprise Bureau.
“Since June 20, when rainy season this year ended, there was no rainfall at all in Naha,” Omura said.
Other parts of the island experienced a few showers, but not enough to keep reservoirs full.
And there’s little relief in sight.
“We cannot expect any rain at least the whole next week in August,” Omura said. “High pressure will dominate this area for a while.”
Working, exercising and playing in the heat can cause heat stress, which can lead to cramps, exhaustion and heatstroke, said Amanda Woodhead, a spokeswoman for U.S. Naval Hospital at Camp Lester.
Three heat-related ailments were recorded in the hospital’s emergency room in June, Woodhead said. Nine were recorded in July.
Okinawa hospitals treated 59 cases of heatstroke, said an official at the prefecture’s Health Promotion Office. Two cases resulted in death.
That’s 10 short of the record 69 heatstroke cases recorded in the summer of 1998, the official said.
But there’s still two months to go.
— Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.
Beat the heat
Camp Lester U.S. Naval Hospital spokeswoman Amanda Woodhead suggested the following steps to “beat the heat” and prevent heat-related medical emergencies:
• Drink at least 8 ounces of water every 20-30 minutes.• Avoid sports supplements that contain ephedrine and caffeine.• Avoid alcohol and carbonated drinks. They can cause cramps.• Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.• Stay in the shade when possible. If you must be in the sun, use sunscreen.• Engage in strenuous activities early in the morning or late in the evening.• When starting a new job in a hot environment, expect to do only half the work you would normally do. Gradually increase your workload until you’re able to work normally.
— Stars and Stripes