Michigan weather history: The great heatwave of 1894

It was 96 degrees in Grand Rapids on June 14, 1894

As we expect to see temperatures in the mid 90s this weekend in Michigan, let's take a quick look back at an 1894 heatwave that gripped the southwest part of the state for a week. 

According to National Weather Service records, temperatures were at or above 90 degrees across much of the region from June 10 to June 16, 1894. Grand Rapids hit 95 degrees on June 13, 96 degrees on June 14 and 97 degrees on June 15.

Meteorologist Brandon Roux said highs are expected to hit the mid 90s Sunday in Metro Detroit with sweltering summer heat and humidity. 

So what's old is new again. Today, sunscreen is our advantage over Michiganders of the 1890s. They didn't know what we know about skin cancer and the sun's harmful radiation. 

MORE: Here are the 20 coldest and warmest Junes in SE Michigan weather history

Heat awareness

While we're on the topic of heat, the National Weather Service (NWS) offers the following on the dangers of excessive heat, and explains how heat is not always about the temperature alone. 

"The heat index is a measurement of how hot it really feels when the relative humidity is incorporated with the actual temperature," the NWS explains. "Heat indices were designed for use in the shade with light wind conditions. If in direct sunlight, the heat index can increase as much as 15 degrees. With very hot and dry air, strong winds can also be extremely dangerous."

Here's a closer look at how relative humidity and temperature combine to form the heat index and the danger levels:

Here are four types of heat disorders that occur and their symptoms include:

  • Sunburn: Redness and pain. (also swelling, blisters, fever, and headaches)
  • Heat cramps: Painful spasms usually in the legs and abdomen. (also heavy sweating)
  • Heat Exhaustion: Heavy sweating and weakness, along with cold, pale, and clammy skin.
  • Heat Stroke: A high body temperature, hot and dry skin, a rapid and strong pulse, and possible unconsciousness.

The NWS explains an Excessive Heat Warning is issued if the heat index equals or exceeds 105° for at least three consecutive hours. Heat Advisories are posted when the heat index is expected to exceed 100 degrees for three consecutive hour and can be extended into the night if low temperatures are in the 70s or higher.

The NWS suggests the following tips to stay safe during hot weather:

  • Stay out of the sun. (sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation more difficult)
  • Spend as much time as possible in air conditioning. If you do not have an air conditioner, go to an air-conditioned public building, like a library.
  • Slow down. (reduce, eliminate, or reschedule physical activities for a cooler time of the day)
  • Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty. Do not drink any alcohol, including beer.
  • Dress in lightweight and light colored clothes. This will reflect the sunlight and heat.
  • Eat smaller meals and less proteins.
  • Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.

5 heat deaths a year in Michigan

According to the NWS, Michigan averages about 5 heat related deaths each year.  

"The number of heat related illnesses are difficult to record, but it is fair to say that each year in Michigan there are hundreds of heat related illnesses some of which require hospitalizations," reads a statement by the NWS. "The national average is 134 heat related deaths making heat the number one weather related killer in the United States."

RELATED: Protect your pets from the summer heat

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