SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — On Monday in Omaha, NE, a 1-year-old child died after being left in a hot van. The heat index in Omaha that day was 110°F.

That matches the heat index today in Sioux Falls, as temperatures continue to stay elevated.

Heat index for Sioux Falls around 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023.

To get a measure of just how hot a car can get on a day like today, KELOLAND News stepped out with our laser thermometer at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. to record the temperatures in two different cars — one beneath the shade of a tree, and the other sitting exposed in a sunny parking lot.

Here’s what we found.

10:00 a.m. – Heat Index of 96°F

Shaded car

  • Fabric Seat Back: 93°F
  • Plastic Seat Belt Buckle: 91°F
  • Steering Wheel: 93°F

*Sunny car

  • Fabric Seat Back: 109°F
  • Plastic Seat Belt Buckle: 118°F
  • Steering Wheel: 120°F

1:00 p.m. – Heat Index of 110°F

Shaded car

  • Fabric Seat Back: 116°F
  • Plastic Seat Belt Buckle: 113°F
  • Steering Wheel: 122°F

*Sunny car

  • Fabric Seat Back: 146°F
  • Plastic Seat Belt Buckle: 147°F
  • Steering Wheel: 145°F

*Note: Not all measured elements of the second car were in direct sunlight, some being shaded by the car itself. Then car as a whole was in direct sunlight.

Nancy Raether is a community programs coordinator with Sanford Health. She spoke with us today about safety surrounding children and hot cars.

“Cars heat up really quickly, even if you leave your window open — it really doesn’t make a bit difference — even if you park in the shade, it’s not enough to keep your car cool enough,” said Raether.

Children (or anyone) should not be left unattended in a stopped car, even if it’s just for a short period of time.

“The heat actually rises fastest in the first 5-10 minutes of that car sitting in the sun,” Raether explained. “That temperature can rise anywhere from 10-20° in just that little bit of time, so if you already have an outdoor temperature that’s in the 80s or 90s — the whole interior is just going to be incredibly warm.”

Some ways to reduce the heat of a car seat recommended by Raether are using window shades, or placing something over the seat when not in use to block direct sunlight on it.

One thing that Raether advocates is taking measures to ensure you don’t accidentally leave a child in the back seat of a car. “Make a habit of making sure you always have a reason to check the back seat,” she said. “Leaving you phone or computer bag or your employee badge in the backseat area that makes you have to open the door.”

The last bit of advice from Raether is to keep your car locked when nobody is in it. Kids often see cars as something fun, she warned, and especially when it’s hot, you want to eliminate the chance of a kid accidentally shutting themselves in or trying to hide in a car.