Originally created 07/25/99

Steamy weather expected to simmer down



Georgia Games athletes and spectators will catch a break -- somewhat -- from the weather today.

After four straight days of sweltering heat, temperatures likely will be a bit cooler today, said Dan Miller, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in West Columbia, S.C.

Although the temperature will remain in the mid-90s, the heat index -- which combines temperature and humidity -- is expected to peak at 105 degrees, Miller said. Saturday's index hit 111, he said.

Clouds and possible rain should prevent the index from climbing that high today, Miller said. There is a 40 percent chance of an afternoon shower or thunderstorm, he said.

Because of the expected cloudy skies, the weather service lifted a heat advisory that had been in effect throughout the Georgia Games, Miller said.

If temperatures do drop, it will come after the hottest day of the competition. Early forecasts Saturday indicated that Augusta's heat index might reach 115, but afternoon clouds cooled the city.

"The cloud cover helped us a lot," said John Stafford, emergency management coordinator for the Games. "I've got no doubt that if that cloud cover hadn't rolled in, we would have seen the heat index climb higher."

Games organizers changed some outdoor events to help athletes, Stafford said.

Track-and-field events were shuffled to allow long-distance runners to race at dusk, in cooler temperatures. Officials instituted short timeouts at soccer, rugby, lacrosse and roller hockey to give athletes more rest and water breaks, Stafford said.

Organizers can make the same changes today if conditions warrant, he said.

Despite the changes, the heat took its toll on some competitors and spectators Saturday. As of 8:10 p.m., 35 people had suffered heat-related illnesses, including 21 at the track-and-field competition alone, said Jay Taylor, assistant emergency management coordinator for the Games.

Four people were taken to area hospitals, he said.

One competitor who suffered from the heat was 11-year-old Lauren Turner. She fell during the road race at Riverwalk Augusta but completed the race when her father, John Turner, carried her across the finish line.

"I just kind of got hot," Lauren said.

Brandon Haddock can be reached at (706) 823-3409 or bhaddock@augustachronicle.com.