Compared to last summer’s in-your-face, 70-day parade of 100-plus temperatures, this summer’s on-again, off-again heat waves seem not-so-much.
Except they are.
Seasonal temperatures put the summer of 2012 as the 17th hottest on record so far in 113 years of recordkeeping, said Joe Harris, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service.
“We are on the hot side of the average highs,” Harris said.
At Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Tuesday, North Texas logged its 13th day of triple-digit heat. On average, the region sees about 18 days at 100 degrees or more each summer.
Triple-digit heat is expected for the next seven days, Harris said, unless the current ridge of high pressure breaks down and moves far enough to the west for the region to get a little relief.
If that happens, “the possible high for Monday and Tuesday might be 99,” Harris said.
Overall, July has been about 3 degrees above average, with three daily highs either tying or setting a new record. That comes on the heels of above-normal temperatures in March (5.7 degrees above average), April (4.1 degrees), May (4.4 degrees) and June (3.1 degrees), Harris said.
The combination of warm temperatures overnight and triple-digits during the day have triggered the National Weather Service to issue a heat advisory at least through Thursday.
The weather service limits heat advisories to 24- to 48-hour periods. Some of the prediction of the heat index, as well as the air temperature, depends on the dew point, which can vary a lot from day to day, Harris said. But the advisories help alert people to the possibility of heat-related illness, particularly when overnight lows don’t drop below 80 degrees and daytime highs go above 105, either in the temperature or the heat index.
Health care workers at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton have seen an increase in heat-related illness among patients in the emergency department, according to hospital spokeswoman Elizabeth Long.
“Some have been elderly, but mostly it has been folks who work outside,” Long said in an e-mail.
To stay safe in the heat, Long relayed advice from the emergency room staff — No. 1, stay hydrated, but with water and not energy drinks.
“Also, folks should try to stay in the shade and pay attention to what their body tells them,” Long said. “If people are outside and begin to feel bad, they need to take a break from what they’re doing, drink water and not try to just ‘push through it.’”
Heat-related illness can come on quickly, and it sends many Texans to the emergency room each year, according to Jason West, a trauma surgeon at Denton Regional Medical Center.
“Heat stress can be caused by a variety of factors, from high temperature and humidity, to limited air movement, physical exertion or even some medicines,” West said in an e-mail.
Denton and other area cities and water suppliers are keeping an eye on the demand for water, which typically increases during the hottest days of summer. In the city of Denton, daily production is coming close to last summer’s record demand, which set a new record of 37.5 million gallons on Aug. 1, 2011, according to Joel Nickerson, city water utilities coordinator.
The old record, 33 million gallons, was set July 28, 2008, Nickerson said.
In 2011, daily production exceeded the 2008 record 30 times. On Monday, Denton’s maximum daily production went to 32.2 million gallons.
Denton implemented daytime watering restrictions in 2006. Each summer, beginning June 1 and through September, residents face fines for watering outdoors between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
In Ponder, a new water well has brought much relief compared to this time last year, when officials had to enact Stage 2 restrictions. Ponder officials drilled a water well earlier this year, which now produces more than half of the total water needs for the town and customers in the surrounding area. The town has six wells and the most recent is the largest of the six, producing about 430 gallons of water per minute, said Public Works Director Gary Morris.
Ponder’s water demands have doubled since temperatures hit triple digits, which is normal, he said.
“We’re doing a lot better than we were before the well,” he said.
For other area cities, voluntary water restrictions continue to serve as a reminder why conservation remains important. The Lake Cities Municipal Utility Authority, which serves Lake Dallas, Shady Shores and Hickory Creek, is still in Stage 1 of its drought contingency plan.
Stage 1 is voluntary, with a goal to reduce water usage 1 percent and avoid water emergency problems. The utility service asks residents to limit outdoor landscape watering to no more than two times per week.
For Mustang and the Upper Trinity Regional Water District, there are no current restrictions in place other than voluntary conservation, Mustang General Manager Chris Boyd said.
JOHN HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is email@example.com .
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Symptoms of heat exhaustion:
• headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
• weakness and moist skin
• mood changes such as irritability or confusion
• upset stomach or vomiting
Symptoms of heat stroke:
• dry, hot skin with no sweating
• mental confusion or losing consciousness
• seizures or convulsions
Tips for preventing heat stress:
• Know the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses.
• Block out direct sun or other heat sources.
• Use cooling fans or air conditioning and rest regularly.
• Drink lots of water — about 1 cup every 15 minutes.
• Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.
• Avoid alcohol, caffeinated drinks and heavy meals.
How to respond to a heat-related illness:
• Call 911 at once.
• While waiting for help to arrive, move the person to a cool, shaded area.
• Loosen or remove heavy clothing.
• Provide cool drinking water.
• Fan and mist the person with water.
CHECK THE BACKSEAT
The National Weather Service released safety information this week, based on research by Jan Null, a consulting meteorologist at San Francisco State University, to remind North Texans not to leave children or pets in a vehicle during the summer.
To help busy parents remember, officials recommend putting a teddy bear in the front seat when children are riding in the back seat, or put briefcases and bags in the backseat with the child.
Other basic safety tips include:
• Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, not even for a minute.
• If you see a child in a hot vehicle, call 911.
• Be sure all occupants leave a vehicle when unloading.
• Always lock your car each time you leave it.
• Make sure children don’t have access to the keys or remotes.
• Teach your children that cars are not play areas.
• Make sure your child care provider or child’s school will call you if your child does not show up for school.
SOURCE: National Weather Service