Concern about the weekend’s hot weather forecast has prompted Ironman Coeur d’Alene to move the start time for Sunday’s triathlon to 5:30 a.m., a half-hour earlier.
“We will continue to work on additional contingency plans if adverse weather conditions require further modifications to the event,” organizers said in a statement Tuesday.
The National Weather Service is forecasting highs of about 100 on Saturday and 104 Sunday. With large crowds expected for Hoopfest in Spokane this weekend and for Ironman, regional health experts warned Tuesday that the triple-digit temperatures can pose a threat to people’s lives.
“Heat-related illness is preventable, so we highly encourage athletes and fans to educate themselves on how to recognize and prevent it,” Dr. Joel McCullough with the Spokane Regional Health District said in a news release.
“The key here is to drink before, during and after outdoor activity,” McCullough said. “If athletes or spectators are already thirsty before heading outside, they are already on their way to dehydration.”
People who exercise in extreme heat are more likely to become dehydrated and develop heat-related illness, including heat stroke, which occurs when the body is no longer able to regulate its temperature. If not treated immediately, heat stroke can lead to death or permanent disability, health officials said.
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop within hours of exposure to high temperatures and from not drinking enough fluids.
Those at greatest risk for heat-related illness include infants and children up to 4 years old, people 65 and older, people who are overweight and anyone who is ill or on certain medications.
About 2,000 people are registered for Sunday’s Ironman, which begins at City Beach with a 2.4-mile swim in Lake Coeur d’Alene. The professional men will go in the water at 5:30 a.m., followed five minutes later by the professional women. Everyone else will follow beginning at 5:45 a.m.
The swim, bike and run cutoff times have been adjusted as well, and the race will end at 11 p.m.
“As our primary concern is the safety and security of our participants, spectators, volunteers, first responders and staff, we have been and will continue to be in constant communication with the National Weather Center and medical personnel to make certain we have the most accurate and up-to-date information,” Ironman officials said in a statement.
More medical personnel will be on the course this year, as will additional misting stations, fluids, sponges and ice, the organization said.
Officials in Central Washington also are preparing for a possible spike in medical emergencies Friday and Saturday at the electronic music festival Paradiso at the Gorge Amphitheatre. The event draws 25,000 young fans, and each year several dozen of them end up in the Quincy Valley Medical Center emergency room, mostly for problems related to drugs and alcohol.
“We’ll have several deputies out there, in the campground and at the venue, not only watching for people doing things that are illegal but also keeping an eye out for people who may be struggling with the heat or drug-related illnesses,” said Kyle Foreman, spokesman for the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.
Starting last year, more water stations were added for the two-day concert, and the event promoter began contracting with AMR to have medical personnel and ambulances at the venue.
A 21-year-old Washington State University student died at Paradiso two years ago because of dehydration caused by the heat and methamphetamine intoxication, according to an autopsy.
“When you have a crowd of 25,000 people, a small percentage are going to end up getting heat-related illness or have a drug-related illness,” Foreman said.
Quincy Valley Medical Center will have extra staff working this weekend.
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