Severe weather awareness week: temperature extremes and wildfires

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Florida tends to experience a wide range of temperatures from cold to hot weather. In the summer, it often feels hotter than it really is thanks to the humidity. This real feel temperature is measured as the heat index.

When the heat index is above 105 degrees, it limits the body's ability to cool through sweating and it can be dangerous for people and animals. Becoming overheated can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

The best thing to do in hot weather is wear light-weight, light-colored clothing. Of course, stay hydrated and drink plenty of water even if you aren't thirsty. Avoid sugary drinks. Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. Don't stay outdoors too long during the afternoon. Also, check on the elderly and young.

Meanwhile, we've had our share of cold weather lately. When strong winds combine with cold temperatures, we lose heat. The wind chill can make it feel much colder outside than it actually is.

When it's cold be sure to dress in layers with hats and gloves. Check on the elderly and young. Bring your pets inside. Cover cold-sensitive plants. Cover exposed pipes when temperatures dip below 25 degrees and allow outdoor faucets to slowly drip to prevent them from freezing. Also, be careful heating your home. Do not use an oven. Keep space heaters away from flammable objects.

In addition to the cold weather this year, we've also had very dry air. That could enhance our fire danger between now and the Spring. In a typical year, Florida sees more than 4,500 fires burn nearly 110,000 acres of land.

Most fires are started by people. Yard waste burns can get out of control and even cigarettes can spark up a fire.

Prescribed fires are positive and are started by local and state fire officials to reduce the hazardous materials in the brush and can actually limit a wildfire's damage down the road. These fires also recycle nutrients into the soil.

For fire safety tips, see the links attached.