UNC Medical Director Advises Residents on Staying Safe During Heat Wave

This week may be the hottest week of the summer so far with temperatures remaining in the mid-90’s in Chapel Hill and surrounding areas.

Ahbi Mehrotra, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at UNC Hospitals’ Hillsborough campus, has advice on how to stay safe in the extreme heat and avoid dangers like heat exhaustion.

“If you have to be outside, it’s planning ahead, so making sure you have plenty of water to make sure you stay hydrated,” Mehrotra says.

While it’s important to stay hydrated, Mehrotra says to make sure water is the drink of choice when outside in the heat.

“The one thing that people tend to overlook is the importance of the water as hydration and people tend to grab for caffeinated sodas and that can actually make things worse, as well as alcoholic beverages,” Mehrotra said. “They can cause dilation and so you get more heat exposure and so it reverses what you’re actually trying to do.”

Mehrotra also says to try and keep children out of the sun in the peak hours of the day, and to avoid leaving anyone in a turned-off car causing elevation in body temperature.

As for the elderly, Mehrotra says it is best to avoid situations of extreme heat and says having a neighbor check on you periodically is a good idea.

For those who have to work outside, Mehrotra said to always have a partner and to make sure each of you are looking for potential symptoms of heat exhaustion which could lead to a heat stroke.

“For heat exhaustion you’re thinking of headache, dizziness, nausea, those are some of the earlier signs, all the way to heat stroke which you can have seizures, coma, where you can’t tell that you’re at that point,” Mehrotra said. “Your body is starting to shut down, you actually stop perspiring so you’re no longer sweating.”

If someone seems to be experiencing these symptoms, Mehrotra says to first make sure you are safe, and then help the person in need by getting them indoors and hydrated with cool water.

If someone’s symptoms are not improving or they begin to show more signs of heat exhaustion, Mehrotra says to call 911 for professional care.


Books for summer: Mountains and Military

If you want some more tips for good summer reading from recent books by North Carolina authors, I have four suggestions, two set in the mountains, two about our military.

Grandfather Mountain

“Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian ” (Book Cover via UNC Press)

An obvious choice if you are planning a trip to the mountains is Randy Johnson’s book, “Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon” published this month by UNC Press. It is a superb history and collection of photos that capture the majesty of this national treasure. North Carolina is blessed with a host of wonderful and beautiful mountains. Grandfather, though not the highest, is the most dramatic, the grandfather of all the rest.

Robert Morgan, author of “Gap Creek,” writes, “In this loving tribute Randy Johnson has captured the majesty of this national treasure. Through spectacular photographs and a lively, deeply researched narrative, Johnson celebrates the glory of ‘the Grandfather’ of mountains as no one else has. This volume is both a practical guide for those discovering the area, and a work of art commensurate with the grandeur of the mountain itself.”

chasing the north star

“Chasing the North Star” (Book Cover via Aalgonquin)

Coincidentally Morgan’s latest, “Chasing the North Star,” is one of my favorite novels of the year. His novel, set in pre-Civil War times, follows a crafty teenaged runaway slave named Jonah Williams on a northward journey towards freedom, from the Carolina mountains all the way to Ithaca, New York. Along the way, Jonah’s adventures and his contacts with the people he meets reminded me of the travels of Inman, the Civil War soldier in Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain.”

Early on Jonah meets a young enslaved woman named Angel, who decides to follow him. Sometimes together, sometimes separated, they make their sometimes different ways towards freedom, drifting past Asheville in a stolen small boat on the French Broad River, walking to Kingsport, finding work in a high-class brothel in Roanoke, with close calls and adventures on every pathway and at every stop.

pam saulsby

Pam Saulsby (Photo via pamsaulsby.com)

Pam Saulsby, a well-known and much-admired Emmy-award winning television news journalist, grew up in a military family and understands the challenges that children face when their parents are deployed to conflict zones. Her new book, “Ashley’s High Five For Daddy” is a beautifully illustrated picture book for young readers. It stars Ashley, the feisty daughter of a returning soldier and recounts her successful struggle to understand how and why her beloved dad has changed.

Why We Lost

“Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars” (Book cover via Hachette Book Group)

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger teaches at N.C. State. Here is the shocking opener of his new book: “I am a United States Army general, and I lost the Global War on Terrorism.” These opening lines come from “Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.”

Bolger writes, “It’s like Alcoholics Anonymous; step one is admitting you have a problem. Well, I have a problem. So do my peers. And thanks to our problem, now all of America has a problem, to wit: two lost campaigns and a war gone awry.”

Just what did Bolger and the other generals do wrong in Afghanistan and Iraq?

He writes, “Despite the unmatched courage of those in U.S. uniform–including a good number of generals who led their people under fire–our generals did not stumble due to a lack of intellect. Rather, we faltered due to a distinct lack of humility. Certain we knew best, confident our skilled troops would prevail, we persisted in a failed course for far too long and came up well short, to the detriment of our trusting countrymen.”

These pages should be required reading for any president or presidential candidate who proposes to send American troops again to fight an extended counterinsurgency war.


These books and authors will be on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch on the following schedule:

Sunday noon June 25 and Thursday 5pm June 29 Randy Johnson author of “Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon”

Sunday noon July 3 and Thursday 5pm July 7 Pam Saulsby author of “Ashley’s High Five For Daddy”

Sunday noon July 10 and Thursday 5pm July 14 Dan Bolger author of “Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.”

Sunday noon July 17 and Thursday 5pm July 21 Robert Morgan author of “Chasing the North Star”


Summer Fun for a Foodie

Time to savor the flavor of summer. Literally! It’s that time of year when many people center their social events on food – cookouts, family reunions, graduation grilling and poolside parties. You name the food-filled event and people gather. And for most folks, food makes us feel better. So it only seems like good sense to try as many different foods as possible, right? Here are some fun food-related ideas to add to your summer bucket list and complete before Labor Day.

  1. Stop The Neighborhood Ice Cream Truck

You hear the jingle coming down the street. You know you want a treat. Find that inner kid in you, and stop the ice cream truck. You’ll be glad you did.

  1. Try a New Recipe or Two or Three

I’ve got your first recipe covered. How about an Avocado, Black Bean and Mango Salad? You need one can of black beans drained, one mango chopped, one avocado chopped, one Granny Smith apple chopped, one lime squeezed and peel grated. Mix all together in your favorite bowl. Add as much chopped cilantro as you like and serve. Simple to make, tastes great and spells summer.

  1. Eat at a Food Truck

They’re everywhere! Remember the day when food truck restrictions abound? Not anymore. Go to any food truck park or festival. Once you find a truck, it’ll all be worth it. Even The Carolina Inn has added food trucks to everyone’s favorite Friday after five tradition, Fridays on the Front Porch.

  1. Eat Fondue

Bored with your regular dinner routine? Have a fondue night. Who can resist a delicious melted pot of heavenly goodness (commonly in the form of cheese or chocolate)? Add some fruit & veggies plus bread & pretzels for dipping. Start with cheese and end with chocolate. Or live life on the edge, and eat dessert first! Last resort…hit The Melting Pot restaurant near Southpoint Mall.

  1. Go Fruit Picking

You’ll never eat better fruit than the sun-warmed pieces you pick yourself. Grab some large shallow containers and head for a pick-your-own farm, a strawberry patch or a friend’s blackberry bush to gather some of the best fruit of the summer.

  1. Eat Lunch from the Samples at Costco or Sam’s Club

You know the samples are the main reason you go. It’s my guilty pleasure too. That’s how my last Friday afternoon played out. And the samples were aplenty! Find a friend with a membership and get to sampling. Because who really needs 20 rolls of paper towels at one time?!

  1. Eat at a Movie Theater

It’s a movie theater and restaurant rolled into one. Silverspot Cinema in Chapel Hill, anyone?

  1. Take a Road Trip to Experience Southern BBQ

North Carolina is the perfect state for it. Or venture across the border. If you’re on a staycation, Crook’s Corner brings the ‘cue to you with Carolina ‘Cue Wednesdays featuring barbecue from around the state. Or taste some of the best BBQ around at Allen & Son Barbeque in Chapel Hill or Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Durham. (Yes, barbecue is spelled or abbreviated a myriad of ways and all seem to be correct!)

  1. Eat Raw Oysters

On your next trip to the coast try raw oysters. Trust me, they’re actually quite tasty. But if you don’t want to commit, settle for some fried or charbroiled oysters. Or stay local and dine on oysters in the Triangle. Just remember – the world is your oyster!


Share your fun foodie ideas with Chapelboro Insiders.


The Town of Carrboro Holding First Summer Streets this Sunday

Summer is officially here and the Town of Carrboro is kicking it off with Summer Streets this Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The event will be held on East Weaver Street, between North Greensboro and East Main Street, and the road will be closed to vehicles.

Board of Alderman member Bethany Chaney mentioned at the meeting on Tuesday night that it was important to let residents know that the event was happening, in order to warrant closing the streets after business owners expressed concerns from last year.

“We recently did have a business owner, a property owner forward some pictures to remind us that there were very few folks that came out on whatever day it was those pictures came from,” Chaney Said.

The board members pointed out that last year coincided with near-record high heat. This year the board is looking at ways to help keep attendees cool if the heat becomes a problem again.

In order to quell business owners concerns, board member Randee Haven-O’Donnell said it is important to keep track of attendance.

“We do need to get a count so that we can respond to the business folks to let them know that we’re going to take care of that aspect of it, because – I agree it’s not a matter of cancelling – it’s a matter of making corrections,” Haven-O’Donnell said.

Alderman Damon Seils said he recalled a survey taken from last year of the local businesses and found no reports of a negative impact from closing the streets.

“No one told her there was a problem – that there was no drop in business or anything like that,” said Seils.

Summer streets will be happening again on Sunday, July 17.


Top Trends: July 24

Throwback: Remember when Bill Cosby wrote a Grammy-award winning album in 1971 called Bill Cosby Talks to Kids About Drugs? Now we know the irony of him having a hit song surrounding the message “Say no to pills.”

Video: One guy gets close to a baby seal, and what happens next will make you ready to love on a baby seal.

Recipe: Get ready for the weekend with these summer dinner dishes!

Keep up with WCHL/Chapelboro on social media! Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Find something you want to share? Email it to trends@wchl.com.


Traveling in Style

Packing Perils

Summer vacation season is upon us.  By car, by plane, by boat, by train….you’re bound to be headed somewhere this summer.  That means you have the daunting task of packing ahead of you, which takes time, energy, planning and decision-making skills.  Oh, the agony of accessorizing every outfit!  And how will I know what I’m doing every minute of my trip?  When it comes to packing, it’s so easy to over-pack and procrastinate.  I know I’m not alone in either department; however I might be in contention for the all-time packing procrastination award.  I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve only had a couple hours sleep before a flight because I waited and deliberated.  However, preparation and packing light are the secrets to saving time, tips and those lovely luggage fees.  (Who knew your bag would have to pay too?!)  My advice—make a packing list and don’t wait until the eleventh hour to get started!

When it comes to air travel you have to think smart and be a minimalist.  Ideally, try not to check bags.  One incidence with lost luggage and you will swear never to check your bags again.  You can usually get away with a roller suitcase and a carry-on if your trip is under a week.  Fortunately, new ergonomically designed and lighter luggage options exist for the traveler who chooses to carry her bags on board.  While schlepping your bags down the terminal concourse, jet-bridge and airplane aisle sounds exhausting, think of it as your strength work out for the day.  You will also have peace of mind that your belongings all made it safely with you to your destination.  The key is to board early, so you secure that much coveted overhead bin space.  Traveling for more than a week or for a winter ski trip with bulky clothes?  Most likely you will need to check at least one bag, so don’t forget to ask your airline about baggage fees before you go.

Helpful Tips for Frequent Travelers

If you travel frequently – especially if you prefer to carry on all of your luggage – consider creating a go-to wardrobe capsule for specific destinations or business travel.  You might have the ultimate pinstripe power suit for presentations and interviews.  When I pack for a ski trip I have staple outfits for skiing and après ski.  My “Nanook of the North” boots come out of hiding along with my rock-star tee with the fur-trimmed sleeves.  Having favorite go-to outfits for different destinations will speed the packing process and provide confidence in any situation.

Just as with your everyday wardrobe, start by building the basics.  Determine a color palette.  You might begin with the best neutral for you – black, navy, brown or gray – and choose your accent pieces, shoes and other accessories around that color scheme.

Fold clothes together to avoid sharp creases.  For delicate items, use the plastic bags from your dry cleaner for added protection.

Line the inside of your suitcase with plastic bags (from stores or dry cleaners) to prevent moisture from getting to your clothes.  It could be raining when you land!

Keep trial size products stocked and travel-sized bottles filled, so that area of packing is already checked off your list when it comes trip time.

For a touch of home, pack a scented sachet or travel candle in your suitcase. The sachet keeps your clothes smelling fresh and the candle can be placed next to your bed at night to help you relax from a long day.

I have to be honest.  If I’m traveling by car, the “packing light” rules do not apply.  Ahhh, the beauty of car travel!  You can take as much as your vehicle will hold without the guilt or the extra luggage fees.  You might spend a few more bucks in gas with a heavy load, but it’s worth it to have everything you could possibly need when you arrive at your destination.

Now that you are packed, here are some common sense travel tips to keep you healthy no matter what your mode of transportation.

  • Hydrate! Drink lots of water, especially for air travel.  It’s a fact that you dry out at high altitudes.  Ask the flight attendant for an extra cup of water and try to avoid alcohol.  Instead have an Airborne cocktail.  Carry a roll of Airborne tablets or another product packed with antioxidants and plop one in that second glass.  Tired of water but want something low-cal?  Crystal Light and other companies now make one serving powder packets that you can add to a 16 ounce water bottle for instant sugar-free lemonade, peach tea or other flavors.
  • Sanitize! Every form of public transportation is a breeding ground for germs.  Carry hand sanitizer in the car and the trial size variety on the plane.  Clean your hands frequently, especially before touching your face.  Even wipe down the tray table and arm rests with hand sanitizer or an antibacterial wipe.  You risk looking like a germaphobe to your seat mate, but it’s worth it.
  • Ventilate! You’ve got a chatty seat mate who likes to spit when he talks.  Then he sneezes to boot.  Ugh!   All of these saliva droplets from sneezing, coughing and conversation are flying through the air in closed spaces like planes, cars, and buses.  Turn the vent above your seat to medium flow and position it so the air current moves slightly in front of your face.
  • Pack Snacks! The days of free food and snacks in coach air travel are over.  Feel like you’re in first class (use your imagination) and fill a few baggies with your favorite mixed nuts, crackers or baked chips and throw in a couple of cheese sticks or Laughing Cow spreadable cheese wedges.  You’ll satiate your hunger pangs with your packed picnic and save a few bucks, while your seatmates will wonder why they didn’t think of that.  Try to skip the fast food urge if you have a layover!  For car trips keep the essential munchies and beverages in a mini cooler within easy reach.
  • Layer! The days of free blankets in coach are also over!  (Never saw that one coming.)  Pack or wear a cardigan sweater or pashmina wrap that can double as a blanket in the event your plane, train or car is cooled to sub-zero temps.  Dressing in layers has its benefits when traveling, like allowing you to adjust to a wide variation of temperatures.  You can always shed your blazer or cardigan if you get too hot in transit or once you de-plane in a tropical destination.  Layers keep you prepared in any climate!

It pays to be pro-active when traveling.  A little preparation goes a long way on the road to paradise.  Happy Packing and Happy Trails!

These are my packing and healthy travel tips for any destination.  Feel free to share yours below!



NC Gas Prices Continue to Trend Downwards

AAA Carolinas reports that the gas prices in North Carolina are the lowest they have been in more than a month and drivers are paying less this July than the July of last year; this trend is predicted to continue as the summer progresses.

Public Relations Manager at AAA Carolinas, Tiffany Wright, says that the drop in gas prices this past month is certainly impressive, and that this current trend in prices is not going to stop yet.

“Gas prices are trending downward, and that’s something I think is going to continue,” says Wright. “When you look at the fact we’ve seen North Carolina’s average gas price drop 12 cents in a month, I think that’s saying a lot.”

She attributes to the recent decline in prices to a greater reliance on gathering oil within the U.S.

“They’re trending down right now because right now we are producing a ton of oil domestically,” she says. “So, as we rely less on overseas oil and, at the same time on our end, consume less, that results in declining prices at the pump.”

Because of this dependency on oil we have accessed on our own soil, Wright says that gas prices are not being heavily affected by the conflicts going on in the Middle East.

“It’s a little opposite of what you think would be happening right now, everything that’s going on overseas,” says Wright. “Despite that, oil prices are expensive, and they remain expensive, but they’re relatively stable right now because oil production and export levels, they haven’t really noticeably changed that much. So, we really aren’t having to rely that much overseas.”

While the unrest in Russia progresses as well, Wright says she believes that as long as we stick to our oil supply, we will not encounter much difficulty.

“It’s hard to tell,” she says. “As long as we keep producing as much as we’re producing domestically, I don’t think that will be a problem.”

Wright says she expects travel to continue to as usual, and gas prices will continue to fall below less than what they were around this time last year.

“July and August typically are the busiest driving months of the year, but right now gas prices, they’re really in a good position,” says Wright. “For the remainder of what we call the ‘summer driving season,’ gas prices might actually cost less than in recent years this August, just as long as the refinery production continues and remains strong.”

To see the AAA Carolinas gas price chart that compares prices from this year to last year, click here.


Summer So Far in Orange County

As we approach the end of July, vacationing in Orange County this summer is on the rise when compared to last year. Visitors from all over the state are making Orange County their vacation destination.

Patty Griffin is the Communications Director for the Chapel Hill-Orange County Visitors Bureau. She says that travelling to Chapel Hill and Orange County this summer is coming back in style.

“Travel is going really well so far,” says Griffin. “Our occupancy seems to be running in the neighborhood of four to five percent ahead of last year at this time. Travel seems to be back.”

Griffin says that there are a number of reasons why summer vacationing to Orange County is on the rise this year.

“I think a lot of people coming to the area are visiting friends and family,” says Griffin. “A lot of people are having family reunions this time of year. We’re seeing tons of weddings. We’re seeing people visiting the University. Also, a lot of day trips, we’ve seen people travelling up from Charlotte or Pinehurst for the day. It seems to be a really, really busy time for Orange County.”

She also added that the restaurant scene in Orange County is a major draw for vacationers this summer. The restaurants and bars have been featured on Fodor’s Travel, Huffington Post, AAA World Magazine, Food Network, Food Republic, New York Times, and others.

For more ideas on what you can do in Orange County this summer, click here.


Duke Energy Grid Will Beat the Heat

Despite the high temperatures across North Carolina, the heat may not pose much of a problem for Duke Energy’s power grids.

Spokesperson for Duke Energy, Jeff Brooks, says that because of the sweltering heat inciting a greater usage of air conditioning, Duke Energy is certainly prepared for the increasing demand for cool airflow.

“We don’t anticipate any problems with meeting customer demand during this time,” says Brooks. “We know it’s very hot, but our grid is ready to respond, and we take steps to ensure that our electric grid is able to respond to customer demand, even when it reaches the high levels as we’re seeing during these hot days.”

Brooks also says that there are a myriad of ways for Duke Energy customers to take steps to still keep their electricity bills low when fighting the heat.

“We want our customers to be comfortable, and certainly we’re going to provide the electricity they need to enjoy their lives,” says Brooks, “but from a bill standpoint, customers can take steps to keep their energy costs lower during periods of high usage.”

Brooks says he suggests taking actions such as setting air conditioning to the highest comfortable setting and to turn it up a few degrees if you will be away from the house most of the day, making sure air filters are clean, using ceiling fans or portable fans, keeping blinds closed, and general maintenance on units. He also says that Duke Energy offers programs for customers to voluntarily decrease their energy usage on days when energy demands are higher to receive credit on their bills for participating.

When it comes to how the heat will affect the machinery of the grid itself, Brooks says that customers can rest assured that they will not have to worry about any technical difficulties.

“The electric grid is a machine, like any other machine, and temperature does have an impact on the way a machine works,” says Brooks, “but we’re not expecting anything that would cause any reliability issues at all; we’re going to be able to meet customer demand during this period.”


Summer Rains Helped Livestock But Hurt Produce

CHAPEL HILL – This summer’s heavy rains caused flooding in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, but helped some farmers around North Carolina while providing challenges to others.

The heavy rainfall that came this summer shocked many people from around the area, but had various impacts on farmers growing crops.  Owner of Walter’s Unlimited farm, Roland Walters, said that the rain only made new seeding a little more difficult.

“It was just a little harder keeping things seeded or putting down new seeding,” Walter said “the produce that was already seeded, nothing growing, wasn’t any problem, wasn’t harmed or anything; we weren’t excessive enough in any way to be flooding or anything of that nature, it just delayed some seeding.”

Walter’s Unlimited raises cattle, hogs, chicken, and also grow a small amount of produce.  Walter’s said that although seeding was delayed, the livestock benefited from the rain this summer and the grass that grew out of it.

“This was actually probably the best year we’ve ever had, we rely on a lot of grass.” Walter stated “It’s actually made for better environment and better growth for all our animals.”

Other farmers have had different experiences this summer dealing with the heavy rains and cloudy days.  Wild Hare Farm’s owner, Lean Cook, said that the rainy season provided some challenges when growing many outdoor crops.

“It made it a pretty challenging summer with the cooler, cloudy weather and all the rain,” Cook said “it really increases foliar disease in particular, fungal diseases really escalate.”

Wild Hare Farm is not certified organic, but they still do not spray their produce to prevent fungal diseases. Cook grows some flowers and plants indoors which allowed for the rain and weather to not have as big an impact.  Cook says that with the rain she encountered problems making out into the fields and dealing with diseases and weeds.

“Yea, spotty foliar diseases, the other thing is when it’s as wet as it was this summer it’s hard to get out an weed” Cook commented.

The weather this summer has been different from the past few years when we had high degree days and little rain.  Walter’s says that because of the weather this year his livestock has been doing great.

“Hasn’t been excessively hot like it has the past few years, so I think it’s been a very good year, very good summer for our animals” Walters commented.

Although the rain’s this summer made some of the seeding for the next rotation of crops difficult, more grass has been available for livestock.  Walter’s Unlimited had a successful year with the cooler weather and abundance of grass for livestock.