Band members don’t mess with Texas’ heat index

Posted Wednesday, Aug. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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A horn section leader rested in a folding chair tucked in the shade, his eyebrows dotted with sweat, watching more than 200 bandmates practice.

It was 9 a.m. Wednesday, and the temperature was climbing relentlessly. Bryan Bass, a senior in Arlington High School’s Colt marching band, was trying to regain his strength after recently recovering from an illness.

Band director Michael Hejny wasn’t going to chance it with Bass. He wouldn’t let Bass on the field, saying he looked too pale.

“They always say, ‘Don’t be a hero. Squat down. Get relief. Sit in the shade. And be self-aware,’” Bass said of his band directors.

Wednesday was the eighth consecutive day that temperatures in North Texas hit triple digits. And band members and football players returned to school this week for an annual rite of passage: the two-a-day practice.

At 2:57 p.m., the mercury peaked at 105 with a heat index — the combination of humidity and temperature, which is how hot it feels — of 108.

No relief is in sight. Today’s forecast calls for a high of 104 or 105, said Dan Shoemaker, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Fort Worth. And the weather service has issued another heat advisory.

“It’s the difference between a sauna and a steam room,” Shoemaker said.

Just imagine being in that steam room while toting and playing a trombone or a sousaphone.

Taking care

School districts require their staffs to keep a close eye on the thermometer and the heat index.

When the heat index gets too high, trainers, coaches and directors are told to move the students inside, said Leslie Johnston, Arlington’s communications coordinator. “Too high” is an index of 105, but Hejney said he brings his kids inside before it gets that hot.

According to the district’s “Hot Weather and Lightning Safety Procedures” manual, outside band practice should be limited to 20- to 30-minute increments with cooling-off periods and lots of water consumption.

The district also requires all band directors, coaches and drill team directors to get training in CPR each summer.

The daily heat index is important to note, said Dr. Darrin D’Agostino, chairman of the department of medicine at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

When the temperature hits 103 to 104, the body has trouble cooling itself because the outside temperature is higher than the body’s core temperature, he said.

“The higher the heat index, the less amount of time people should spend exercising,” he said.

Ideally, people should drink 8 to 12 ounces of water every 15 minutes, and their electrolyte intake should be 500 to 700 milligrams of sodium per hour taken as fruits and salty snacks, D’Agostino said.

Popular electrolyte drinks don’t contain enough sodium, so salty foods and sodium tablets are better, he said.

Cool it

Hejny, the Arlington High band director, requires students to bring jugs of water to their two-a-day practices — 7:30 a.m. to noon and 2 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday — and advises them to drink water, eat healthful breakfasts and eat snacks during their 15-minute breaks.

During Wednesday’s practice, freshman John Sidens had to step out of formation. He walked over to a cooling station set up by parent volunteer René Cowart.

Cowart’s son, Sam, is a sophomore who plays alto sax. Cowart is one of a group of moms called the “Heat Relief Crew.” They arrive at practice at 7 a.m. and set up a tent that includes a cot, chairs, a misting fan, jugs of water, Gatorade and other salty snacks.

Sunscreen and a first-aid kit are at the ready. A cooler of iced neck wraps is hidden in the shade.

Sidens was overheated and appeared sick. The moms quickly directed him to a chair in front of the misting fan and handed him water and salty crackers.

“What we don’t want to do with young athletes is [follow] the old adage ‘no pain, no gain.’ It doesn’t really work in the state of Texas,” D’Agostino said.

Friday’s high is expected to drop slightly to 101. Over the weekend, highs will be in the mid- to upper 90s.

“Mid-July through the first week of August is typically the hottest time of the year,” Shoemaker said. “Compared with 2011, this is very nice.”

Monica S. Nagy, 817-390-7792 Twitter:@MonicaNagyFWST

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Keeping cool at band practice

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