Central Virginia PDC Hazard Mitigation Planning - Extreme Temperatures: Excessive Heat

Extreme Temperatures: Excessive Heat


A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with high humidity. These conditions can be dangerous and even life-threatening without proper precautions (Virginia Department of Emergency Management). Heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke, happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself. Extreme heat can cause injury or death to humans and animals and can increase the risk of wildfire due to drought.

Location and Extent

Extreme heat is not a hazard with a defined geographic boundary. All localities within the CVPDC area are exposed to the hazard. Urban areas within the CVPDC such as Lynchburg are at a higher risk of excessive heat due to the “Heat Island” effect. Excessive heat can occur at any time during the year, but is most dangerous during the summer between June and August when average temperatures are at their highest.


According to the CDC WONDER (Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research ) data from 1979 to 2011, the CVPDC area has experienced 3659 total days on the NWS Heat Index. Of those 3659 days, 2603 were rated at a level of caution, 1024 were rated at extreme caution, and 32 were rated at danger. There were no days of extreme danger reported. The record high temperature in Lynchburg is 103°F on June 29, 2012, recorded at Lynchburg/Mun. P. G. Meteorological Station.

A widespread and dangerous heat wave swept through the Eastern United States in July 2019. The city of Lynchburg opened two cooling centers on July 20-21 for residents: the College Hill in 811 Jackson Street, and the Salvation Army in 2215 Park Avenue. In addition, the Miller Park Pool and Riverside Park Sprayground were also opened to provide relief to the vulnerable community. Other residents used the Lynchburg bus system to stay cool and residents in other CVPDC jurisdictions found relief in commercial buildings.

A Cooling Center is a facility that has been opened for short term operations due to a specific emergency or event. It is normally opened when temperatures have or may become dangerous. Its paramount purpose is the prevention of death and injury related to exposure to the elements. Cooling Centers can help stranded motorists or residents that have lost critical services or just need somewhere to escape the heat.

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