Maine’s elderly, crops and animals feeling the heat

Heather Patten loads bales onto a conveyor while putting hay in a barn at Patten Farm in Hermon Tuesday. Some crops have been negatively affected by the recent heat, but it seems to have helped the hay this year.
Heather Patten loads bales onto a conveyor while putting hay in a barn at Patten Farm in Hermon Tuesday. Some crops have been negatively affected by the recent heat, but it seems to have helped the hay this year. Buy Photo
Posted July 16, 2013, at 3:52 p.m.
Last modified July 16, 2013, at 8:57 p.m.

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&quotIt does test your patience at times," said Laura Michaud of Dedham, referring to the heat, as she loaded a new air conditioner into her vehicle at Lowe's in Brewer on Tuesday
Kevin Bennett
"It does test your patience at times," said Laura Michaud of Dedham, referring to the heat, as she loaded a new air conditioner into her vehicle at Lowe's in Brewer on Tuesday Buy Photo

FORT KENT, Maine — On the heels of one of the wettest Junes on record, Maine has broken heat records as temperatures reached the 90s this week, creating challenges for people, animals and crops around the state.

“We have certainly broken some temperature records,” Corey Bogel, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Caribou, said Tuesday, adding that “next week is going to be cooler.”

According to a public weather information statement Bogel issued from the weather service on Tuesday morning, Sunday’s high of 91 in Caribou broke a record for the date of 90 set in 1943.

Caribou last hit 90 degrees on Sept. 1, 2010.

A second record fell Monday when Caribou hit 94, breaking the old record for the date of 93 set in 1968. It was the highest temperature recorded in the northern Maine city since it hit 95 on July 20, 1990, according to the weather service statement. It was 87 in Caribou at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

At the southern end of the state, Portland set a record for the highest overnight low temperature on Monday. The low was 70 degrees, breaking the previous record of 69 set in 1998, according to weather service meteorologist Mike Kistner in Gray. The high temperature at the Portland Jetport on Monday of 91 just missed the record of 92. Tuesday’s temperature hit 90 at 12:45 p.m. before cloud cover cooled it off slightly, Kistner said.

Bangor hit a high of 92 Monday, missing the record of 94 set in 1968. It was 89 in Bangor at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, well off the record of 94 set in ’68, Bogel said.

Record-breaking or not, those temperatures are potentially harmful to people, animals and certain crops around the state.

“With these temperatures instances of heat exhaustion and heat stroke are a risk,” Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Sheila Pinette said Tuesday. “This is especially true for the most vulnerable of the population, including anyone on medications, the elderly, and children and infants.”

The best bets for those most vulnerable to the warm temperatures for beating the heat and heat-related illness, Pinette said, is to take it easy.

“Please stay in the shade or in an air-conditioned room,” she said. “If you don’t have air conditioning, go to a friend’s house who does or to the mall or out to a restaurant for dinner.”

Equally important, Pinette said, is maintaining proper hydration throughout the day.

“Drink lots of water,” she said.

And if residents need to be outside, don’t skimp on the sunscreen.

“If you have to be outdoors, try to stay under trees or shaded areas,” Pinette said. “Use a sunscreen of SPF 30 or 50.”

It’s also a good idea to check in on any elderly residents and make sure they are dealing with the heat, she added.

While not in a drought condition, the weather is beginning to affect some of the state’s crops.

“It is hot and dry out there,” Tim Hobbs, director of development and grower relations with the Maine Potato Board, said Tuesday. “Things have started to dry out and some growers are turning on their irrigation systems.”

Forecasts of rain showers later in the week are welcome news for the potato growers and the 55,000 Maine acres in potato production, Hobbs said.

“When it gets this hot you can see the [potato] plants look stressed with that wilted look,” he said. “Heat is one thing and dryness is the other [and] the tubers are small right now, just sitting there waiting for a drink.”

Elsewhere in the state, the weather is actually not such a bad thing for Maine’s agriculture, according to that department’s top official.

“Crops grow well in warm, humid conditions,” Walter Whitcomb, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry commissioner, said Tuesday.

The current weather pattern over Maine, he said, has been a boon for farmers harvesting forage crops such as hay and alfalfa.

“This is exceptional haying weather,” said Whitcomb, who also operates a dairy farm in Waldo. “It makes you sweat, but the regrowth is jumping right back up.”

Vegetables such as corn are also thriving, he added.

Wet weather in June hampered efforts among Maine’s apple growers in spraying for insects and other pests.

“On the fruit and vegetable side, it had been very wet [and] when we have to control damage from fungus or insects by applying spray, having it wash off in rain is expensive and not very effective,” Whitcomb said. “That has been a major challenge.”

Overall, he said, the state’s apple crop is looking good so far and he expects a status update on the blueberry crop Wednesday at a growers gathering.

Like humans, livestock and animals need water and shade, Whitcomb said, and if livestock is pastured, it’s recommended to let the animals out early in the morning and bring them back to shaded areas before the heat of the day.

Warm weather is bringing pests dangerous to humans, as well, Pinette said, with an increase in the tick population statewide.

“We are seeing increased numbers of ticks and the mosquitoes are a lot heavier this year,” she said. “If you are outside, be sure to use repellent and tuck your pants legs into your socks if you are in the woods.”

After coming inside, residents should check themselves for ticks and, if experiencing any flulike symptoms after discovering a tick bite, consult a physician about Lyme disease.

Relief from the heat and related effects is on the way, according to Bogel at the weather service.

“We have two cold fronts moving in,” he said. “One is coming in late [Wednesday] and another one at the end of the week.”

That second front, Bogel said, will squash the string of hot weather with temperatures reaching highs in the mid-70s for the first half of next week.

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