Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Leader staff writer

Tuesday marked the fifth 100-degree- plus day in a row and triple digit days are forecast through Friday, when it will cool down to 98 degrees.

Bring in the heat index and temperatures have hit as high as 121 degrees this week.

Right now the summer heat average is ahead of the all-time record set back in 1954.

The National Weather Service says this heat wave is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Heat is the number-one weather-related killer across the United States, more than hurricanes, floods, lightning and tornadoes.

Nationwide, the average number of heat-related deaths is 162 per year. In Arkansas, through July, there have been five deaths attributed to the heat.

The first 100-degree day in almost two years came July 15 (there were none in all of 2009). Since then, there has been seven other 100-degree plus days in July, add that to the August heat and the area has seen 10 days of 100 degrees or more so far this summer.

The weather service says central Arkansas normally gets six triple-digit days per decade, an average of less than one a year.

Even though 10 triple-digit days are well above normal, it isn’t close yet to the 47 triple-digit days experienced in 1980.

For this year, central Arkansas has also seen 72 90-degree days, nearly 20 more than last year.

The average summer temperature (June through August) for this year so far is 85.7 degrees –on track to be the hottest summer on record. The hottest summer on record goes back to 1954 when the average high was 85.41 degrees.

The month of July was the sixth warmest on record and the warmest July in 12 years, and even the lows were warm. In terms of the average low temperature, it was the second- warmest month on record.

All 31 days had highs of 90 degrees or more. This hasn’t happened since 1993. July’s eight triple-digits days were the most for a July since 1998.

Even though there were a number of storms, including some severe rainfall and flooding, it was still the driest July in a decade.

The combination of high temperatures and lack of rain has brought moderate to severe drought conditions to the southern and eastern portion of the state. Surprisingly, all of Hawaii is under moderate to severe drought conditions and even two large portions of Alaska are reporting drought conditions.

Jacksonville Fire Chief John Vanderhoof said his department has had just a few heat-related runs.

“People are recognizing how hot it is and taking necessary precautions,” the chief said.

He said the firefighters haven’t had to battle any fires yet in the extreme heat, but when they do, tents with water misters will be set up. “And we’ll change out people as often as possible to keep them safe,” the chief said.

Barbara Merrick of Entergy said outside-electric workers are doing most of their work early in the morning. “If they have a job where they have to don the heavy jackets and gloves, it is scheduled first thing in the morning,” Merrick said.

She said the heat is increasing electrical usage, but so far Entergy is handling it well. “We have a number of steps in place including automatic shutoff of some customers and other customers are shifting their electrical use to off-peak times,” she explained.