Extreme heat is changing how we work and play
The hot streak continued Wednesday as two daily temperature records were set on the 33rd consecutive day of triple-digit heat and 40th overall in the Metroplex this year.
The afternoon high of 109 and the overnight low of 86 were both records for the day.
With no relief on the horizon, the heat wave of 2011 may contend with the horrific summer of 1980, when North Texans endured 42 consecutive days of 100-degree heat, 69 overall.
"We've got a legitimate shot at breaking it," said Jason Dunn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.
To tie the record of 42 straight, we'd need to hit triple digits every day through Aug. 12.
Forecast highs for the next few days are 109, 107, 107, 106, 102 and 102.
The heat is clearly changing the way people work and play.
Freeways aren't as congested as usual. Parks are vacant as playground equipment glistens in the sun. Neighborhoods look like ghost towns as people retreat to the air-conditioned indoors, cats and dogs in tow.
The ice storm that crippled North Texas in February, with temperatures in the teens, doesn't seem so bad.
Here's a look at how people are coping with the unrelenting heat, and some of the problems it's causing.
People are not the only ones feeling miserable because of the heat.
Trees can't stand it either.
"When you hit 108 and 110, they are shocked," said Josh Richards, owner of Fossil Creek Tree Farm in Fort Worth. "They aren't happy."
Happy trees -- those that get ample water and have fat green leaves -- are becoming harder to spot these days.
Blame the drought and the heat.
"It's really putting the hurt on them," said Steve Chaney, a horticultural agent with Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
Chaney said the extreme heat burns off trees' root hairs, blocking absorption of water and nutrients.
"As the soil temperature gets higher and higher ... it singes off the hairs -- much like when you hold your arm too close to the fire," he said. "They're all suffering."
Jimmy Prichard, a certified arborist and owner of Integrity Tree Care, said smaller, newer trees could die.
Richards, whose employees have been working nonstop to make sure his 4,000 trees are getting enough water, said "all it takes is one day of not getting water and they will decline super-fast."
"Trees talk to you," he said. "If you look out and the leaves are curling up and turning brown -- that is heat stress."
-- Melody McDonald
Fort Worth's Foster Park, home to a natural pond where dozens of ducks and geese live, seems close to drying up.
Because the thirsty fowl, which live off the crackers and bread crumbs that visitors feed them, won't fly away and seek another water source, city parks workers are bringing water to them.
It's too costly to manually fill up the pond, potentially $12,000, so each morning city workers fill up large buckets and tubs of water for the birds, said Cindy Brooks, spokeswoman for the city's Parks and Community Services Department.
"Ducks are pretty self-reliant," Brooks said. "They know what's going on. And they know there is water in those big tubs we bring out.
"They're not going to starve and they won't go without water."
-- Anna M. Tinsley
Heat wilts farms,
Farmer Peyton Scott wiped his brow and grimaced.
"I am old as dirt, and I don't remember it ever being this bad for this long," said Peyton Scott, 73, who runs Scott Farms in Cisco and has a stand at the Cowtown Farmers Market in Fort Worth. "It has been a battle."
Scott and his workers pick melons, okra and tomatoes early in the morning, usually calling it quits by 10 or 10:30 in the morning, when the air turns stale and suffocating. He pointed to just a few baskets of tomatoes, usually plentiful this time of year.
"Tomatoes are practically nonexistent," Scott said. "Cucumbers. Greens. Things just won't produce."
A few tables down at the market, Cathy Littlejohn of Littlejohn Farms in Gustine said they have irrigated their fields so much that well water is running low and electric bills are more than double the usual amount for this time.
"We need rain," Littlejohn said. "Badly."
-- Sarah Bahari
No horsing around
Recognizing that such extreme heat is not healthy for humans and horses, officers with the Fort Worth Police Department's mounted patrol unit are starting their shift an hour earlier.
"The officers ride a little bit earlier and then toward the heat of the day, they shut down," Sgt. Brandon Hill said.
Horses are unsaddled earlier in the day and washed down to cool their bodies. They're being given double their normal intake of electrolytes, delivered via powder mixed into their food.
And at night, someone goes by the barn to check on each of the nine horses to make sure their water pails are filled, Hill said.
"We're just taking all the precautions and trying to make sure the riders and animals are safe," Hill said.
-- Deanna Boyd
Just weeks after the YES! Taco truck debuted, the midday heat has forced it to change course. The food truck, which operates mostly in front of the SiNaCa glass studio on West Magnolia Avenue in Fort Worth, stopped serving lunch this week, co-owner Eleanor Burkett said. The truck still serves breakfast in the mornings, she said.
She said the switch in schedule was both to protect the workers as well as recognize that the heat is keeping more people indoors in the middle of the day.
"Being a steel box and all ... it is generally hotter in the truck than it is outside," Burkett said.
-- Aman Batheja
Customers were braving the heat to order lunch tacos Wednesday in downtown Fort Worth, but it was really cooking inside the Yum-Yum Food Truck, where the thermometer read 120.
With a griddle, deep fryer, steam table, an oven and the sun blazing through open skylights, Kris Segura and Rosario Gonzales say their only defense against the intense heat is "lots and lots of water."
They start their workday at 4 a.m., and by 2 p.m. Segura had powered through eight 32-ounce cups of ice water and lemonade.
"No food, we're not hungry -- too hot," Gonzales said.
Segura rests for an hour when she gets home and then makes dinner for her two kids before she faces another heat challenge -- soccer practice from 6 to 8 p.m. "More water," she said.
She catches up on cool over the weekend.
"We never get out of the pool."
-- Steve Campbell
Over at Camp
At Camp Carter YMCA in northwest Fort Worth, Dakota Johnson came out on the basketball court with her water gun locked and loaded.
The 19-year-old staffer soaked one co-worker and then another before drenching two campers as a water war broke out Wednesday afternoon.
"It gets pretty tough out here, but we're finding ways to cool off and have fun," Johnson said, wringing water out of her hair.
Camp Carter in Fort Worth has about 160 campers this week for overnight and day camps.
The record temperatures prompted Johnson and other camp counselors to buy dozens of water guns.
"It really helps because when a kid says, 'I'm hot,' we just soak him down," Johnson said. "The kids really love it."
Samantha Rhodes, 8, of Houston, said the water balloon fights have been the most fun at camp.
"We had an all-out war with the boys against the girls and the girls won -- of course," she said.
-- Eva-Marie Ayala
The heat hasn't deterred some diners at two popular restaurants from eating outdoors -- at night.
At the 8.0 Restaurant in Fort Worth's Sundance Square, patrons aren't asking to sit on the patio at lunch, but they are in the evening, particularly Wednesday through Saturday for the restaurant's outdoor concert series, general manager Shawn Howell said.
"We're packed in the evening," Howell said. "There's not much difference between 99 degrees and 109 degrees. It's outside in Texas. It is what it is."
It's the same at Gloria's Restaurant & Bar in the Arlington Highlands, off Interstate 20 and Matlock Road. Not many are asking for outdoor seats at lunch, but when the sun goes down, folks are showing up and sitting outside to drink cocktails and eat dinner, manager Cesar Perez said.
"They always show up after 7:30 p.m.," Perez said. "The patio gets kind of full."
-- Sandra Baker
He's out, but
not for long
Umpire Joe Patman just hopes for a good, fast-moving game when it's hot.
Patman, 48, umpires adult softball and baseball games for the United States Specialty Sports Association.
"If it's a good game, it goes by quick," he said. "If it's not and one team is beating the snot out of the other, I'll stand there and bake ... on red clay."
To stay cool, he keeps a wet towel in a nearby ice chest for his neck and head. He also drinks a lot of water.
"I probably drink 5 to 6 pints," he said.
-- Susan McFarland
Kids' games canceled
On Tuesday, the YMCA in Arlington canceled evening baseball games -- the first time that sports director Mark Bradrick can recall that happening in his 26 years there.
"When it gets above 105 degrees, it's a no-go," Bradrick said.
About 20 games, for kids ages 5 to 14, won't be rescheduled, he said. "The season is going to be over before it cools off."
The Y also canceled Wednesday night's games and said it will begin reviewing outdoor programs day to day as the heat wave continues.
-- Sandra Baker
A/C calls it quits
Could there be a worse time for an air conditioner to stop working?
The window unit in 66-year-old Shirley Tucker's bedroom abruptly stopped blowing cool air about two weeks ago. It was 103 degrees then.
This week, highs have reached 110. The longtime Como neighborhood resident says she has called agencies for relief but was told that the earliest she can get a new window unit is October.
"Finally, I just gave up," Tucker said. "I wasn't going to stress myself out over it."
The air conditioner in Tucker's living room still works, so her house isn't quite an oven. She drinks lots of water during the day. At night, she sets up a box fan to blow cool air from the living room toward the bedroom.
"Just trying to make it cool enough so I can sleep," she said. "But when it's this hot, not much helps."
-- Alex Branch
Crazy for fitness
For Shawna Gibson, owner of ShagFitness, this summer has been the worst in the six years she's been running indoor/outdoor fitness boot camps.
"It was 99 degrees Tuesday morning when the early boot camp finished their workout on RadioShack hill," Gibson said. "Endurance has absolutely been affected and we're taking many more water breaks."
"One thing is for certain," Gibson said, "there is a lot more sweat."
She said attendance has been pretty good until this week, when "six or so people looked at the forecast and didn't come to camp. They didn't just not show up ... they left the state."
The afternoon boot camps have presented other challenges.
"The cement was so hot Tuesday, it burned hands when we did pushups. Even finding shady spots under trees hasn't helped."
And what do others say when they see a group of sweaty people doing pushups, lunges and backward bear crawls up a steep hill in 110-degree heat?
"One guy stopped and watched about half the class the other day. He shook his head and told us we were nuts."
-- Sarah Huffstetler
Roofers take care
On roofs, the shingles get too hot to touch.
"It's pretty rough. Everything is going a lot slower than normal," said Dan Pitts, owner of Pitts Roofing Co. in Fort Worth.
Pitts said roofers have to be careful that they don't scar the roof they are working on -- heavy foot traffic can cause damage in hot weather. Pitts said his roofers have to take extra care of themselves by drinking plenty of water and wearing long sleeves.
"You have to watch the guys," he said. "We don't want them to get hurt."
Jared Gowens, owner of Redeemed Roofing in Fort Worth, said homeowners need to be patient with the workers.
The heat "just really slows down our process, which frustrates homeowners," he said. "If it's 105 degrees outside, that roof is about 170 degrees, so homeowners just need to have more patience with the crews and realize that we're trying to protect our employees from getting hurt."
-- Diane Smith and Melissa Winn
Six Flags Over Heated
Bad guys are one thing, but the triple-digit heat is just too much for Batman and the Justice League.
During the heat wave, costumed characters such as Bugs Bunny, Tweety, the Green Lantern and Wonder Woman at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington are staying indoors to greet fans, park spokeswoman Sharon Parker said.
The theme park has also voluntarily shut down the Mr. Freeze ride from 3 to 7 p.m. in response to ERCOT's request for customers to conserve electricity during peak demand hours.
Mr. Freeze is one of the park's highest-energy-consuming rides.
-- Susan Schrock
Dogs are staying indoors during the heat wave.
Because of that, Joe Tomlinson, a veterinarian with the Northwest Plaza Animal Hospital in Grapevine, said he hasn't seen many animals with heat-related conditions this summer.
"When it's too hot for people, they tend to stay inside with their dogs," he said.
Fort Worth's dog park, Fort Woof, is pretty much empty from noon to dusk, officials said.
"We can tell by the amount of waste cleanup we have," said Bill Begley, a spokesman for the city.
-- Elizabeth Campbell
Is there any truth to the thinking that when the sun's rays are at their most roasting, fiery vittles can bring comfort to a withering soul?
It probably depends on the person, said Clint Haggerty, general manager of Pendery's World of Chiles & Spices.
"I've heard that," said Haggerty, a fifth-generation member of founder DeWitt Clinton Pendery's family. "I think it's like hot coffee. Some people say it's too hot to drink coffee. Others say, 'I'll drink the coffee and it will make me sweat and that will cool me off.' I think that's similar logic."
-- Patrick M. Walker