Posts Tagged ‘heat wave’

Austin, Texas just hit 100 degrees today (according to weather.com).

This is our 25th day of 100 degree weather this year.  That pales in comparison to 2011, where at this time last year we were counting down to breaking the previous record of 69 days of 100 degree days set back in 1925.  Austin did that and more, setting a new record of 90 days of 100 degree days in a single year a month and a half later.

Nevertheless, this year is still above our average of 13.5 days of 100 degree weather, but to the north of Texas, the midsection of the country is experiencing drought and heat waves comparable to ours of 2011.  That being said, weather forecasters are seeing the development of a moderate El Nino which could bring enough rain to Texas this winter to break our drought.  We can only hope that it is not a strong El Nino like the one that hit in 1997 and 1998 which brought major flooding to the state.  These feast or famine swings of weather are taking their toll on many things in this state – our agriculture, economy, electric grid . . .

If climate change is responsible for these extreme weather events, then maybe our leaders should look more closely at what we can do to slow climate change and mitigate the effects.

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Houston hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday for the 15th consecutive day in a row breaking that city’s previous record of 14 consecutive days of 100+ degree heat set in July of 1980. For the year, Houston has seen a total of twenty-six 100-degree days. On average, the city usually only sees around 5 days with 100-degree heat per year.

While the Houston streak continues, several 100-degree streaks have been snapped in the last few days throughout Texas.

Austin ended a streak of 27 consecutive days with 100-degree heat this past Saturday.  Dallas, Texas ended a run of 40 days with 100-degree heat last Thursday.

But Wichita Falls, Texas had the longest streak of 52 consecutive days with 100-degree heat that ended this past Saturday.  However the temperatures immediately went back up over 100 degrees and  their extended 10 day forecast has them well above 100 degrees going into the weekend of Wichita Falls’ 30th annual Hotter”N Hell 100 mile bike ride (HHH).  This insane biking event, that draws from 8,000 to 10,000 participants from around the country to ride in bike routes up to 100 miles long, has been run before on days that made it into the 100s, but this year the race is in the midst of a record breaking heat wave.

According to Larry Magruder, MD and the 1998 Medical Director for HHH, out of over 120,000 riders only six deaths have occurred in the 29 year race history.  And because high temperatures are part and parcel of this particular bike race, the organizers are well prepared to deal with heat related medical problems with more than 800 local medical personnel volunteering their time to the Hotter’N Hell Hundred. Doctors, nurses, physical therapists, hospital workers, American Red Cross volunteers and staff, and others associated with the medical field work  to assure that no one is ever more than 5 miles from professional medical attention.

These folks are both knowledgeable and well prepared to deal with heat related medical issues, but if you are participating in extensive physical activity in this Texas heat, that is not being monitored and supported by medical professionals, you should learn how to prepare for extreme heat and learn the symptoms and treatments of heat related illnesses.  Click here to go to the Center for Disease Control’s extreme heat emergency preparedness and response page.

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The Climate Prediction Center says there is now a 50/50 chance of a return to La Nina conditions this fall.

La Nina is an expansive area of cooler-than-normal water in the Pacific Ocean. This cooling alters weather patterns across the U.S., and almost always results in drier than normal conditions for Texas and most of the South. And, when we’re drier than normal, we tend to be hotter than normal.

This is very bad news for Texas, as the 2010-11 La Nina is the reason for our existing drought and heat wave. Think the drought and summer heat is bad now (the Mid-West and East had a heat wave, what we are having is a heat tsunami), if we have a 2011-12 La Nina, this drought could reach epic proportions by next summer.

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This is a reprint of a post by Jake Dyer from the RechargeTexas.com blog

The rolling blackouts that swept through Texas last February have been blamed on the unexpected failure of generation plants. The temperature dropped during a cold snap, the plants froze up, and then — before anybody really knew what hit them — the lights went out.

And now we’re in the middle of another weather event – this time a heat wave – and just as before a large number of generation plants have failed. The loss of capacity during the February event sent wholesale electricity prices soaring to $3,000 per megawatt/hour, or more than 50 times higher than typical. The same occurred this week as well.

Clearly somebody is making money off the bad weather.  One expert, Oregon-based economist Robert McCullough, raised the possibility that there was  “artificially-created scarcity” last February. That’s regulatory lingo for market manipulation. Although not leveling any specific accusations, McCullough concluded that the cold weather alone could not explain the failure of the state’s power grid to operate reliably.

However, another expert,  the state’s independent monitor of the wholesale energy market, concluded the punishingly high price spikes in February were understandable, given the circumstances. He found no evidence of hanky-panky by electric companies.  Likewise, a federal report largely blamed the inclement weather, although it said plant operators could have done a better job.

This week’s event has not drawn such scrutiny. What’s clear, however, is that more than 20 generating plants unexpectedly failed during the middle of a heat wave. In February, 80 plants went down during a cold snap. Although the ERCOT grid operator hasn’t again ordered blackouts, the organization has taken other emergency steps this week. And if the situation gets worse, some businesses could have their power cut or there could even be more forced outages.

The fact that the lights went out in February prompted a statewide demand for answers.  If ERCOT is able to stave off rolling blackouts during this heat wave, it is unlikely that there will be a widespread outcry for a market manipulation investigation but Texans should be aware, that in a deregulated, market driven energy market, the potential for market manipulation is always there.

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The leading cause of weather related deaths in the U.S. is due to heat, yet during one of worst heat waves in state history, Texas is holding onto millions of dollars intended to help hundreds of thousands of elderly and low-income residents pay their electric bills.

The Dallas Morning News reported that the state has collected $130 million this fiscal year to help financially strapped Texas residents pay for the cost of electricity used for cooling, but has spent only $28 million so far, half as much as it did to help the poor and elderly get through the summer a decade ago.

The reason: State lawmakers have diverted the money to deal with the budget shortfall. Saturday was the 29th consecutive day that it reached at least 100 degrees in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Austin had seen 46 days of triple digit days so far this summer. The much hoped for relief that tropical storm Don was predicted to bring to parts of South and Central Texas fizzled as the storm came ashore and the National Weather Service forecast called for the oppressive heat to continue this week as the ridge of high pressure settles once more over the Lone Star state.

Texas leaders have said that until the economy recovers and lawmakers overhaul the state tax code, they have no choice but to use the dedicated-fee money elsewhere.  Chief Senate budget writer Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said the only alternative to providing all the funds to help elderly and low-income citizens pay their electricity bills in this record breaking heat, would have been to cut more out of education, public safety and other key programs.

The money for the energy bill assistance is paid by fees collected from more than 6 million households and businesses. It is attached to utility bills and for the average residential ratepayer, it is about $1 a month.

Gov. Rick Perry proposed ending the assessment four years ago because the money was being diverted, but it was left in and is once again being diverted.

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Scorching temperatures continue to bake half the country, as a massive heat wave that has killed at least 22 people nationwide this week leaves twenty-nine states still under a heat advisory.

Meteorologists are also warning folks in numerous cities in the northeast that they are under a code red for air quality — designated as unhealthy for all people.

This exacerbates the health risks associated with this heat.  People in areas with high heat and poor air quality need to take care to avoid sunburn, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and breathing the air (especially if they have respiratory problems – such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, emphysema, or asthma).

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On the last day of September in Austin, Texas, we may have put the 100 degree days behind us.  No guarantees, but unless we have a very late heat wave, yesterday’s 100+ degree day may have set the new record to break of 90 days* of 100+ degree days in 2011.

We have also tied or broken several other records this year.  We tied the record for the hottest day ever @ 112 degrees and we easily sailed past our previous record of 21 consecutive days of triple digit temperatures for Austin, to set a new record of 27 days on August 12, 2011.

While the heat wave may finally be loosening its grip on Texas, the drought goes on and the brief, but very welcome showers that have popped up around the state in the last couple of weeks, have done little to alleviate that condition.  85.75% of the state still remains in “exceptional” drought status (the highest level of drought the US Drought Monitor measures), up from 85.43% the previous week. Unless we see extended and significant rain, this extreme drought will continue and that has some communities worrying about running out of water.  See our earlier blog for more on this.

The Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) monthly outlook offers little hope for a change in the overall dry and warm weather pattern through the fall season and beyond.

Climate models are also indicating that the drier and warmer than normal weather will continue through the coming winter. By spring though, the CPC indicates an equal chance that Central Texas could return to a more normal temperature and precipitation pattern.  But, before you get too excited about that, the temperature outlook for next summer is for hotter than normal weather yet again!

We continue to encourage Texans to continue to conserve energy and water where they can.

Austin has had over six times the annual average of 13.5 days of 100 degree weather this year and below are some other fun Austin triple digit degree day facts

Average date of the first 100 degree day:  July 11th, this year it was May 25th
Average date of the last 100 degree day:  August 20th, this year, possibly it was September 29th, but there are still three months left in the year.
Historically-the earliest 100 degree day was May 4th in 1984 and the latest 100 degree day was October 2nd in 1938

*Temperatures are for Camp Mabry which is the location our historical data is based on.  Weather.com likely reports from ABIA located outside the city of Austin.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.


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Parts of 32 states are under heat advisories, warnings or watches today as the deadly heat wave that has blasted the Midwest expanded eastward.

Actual temperatures in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York were expected to hit 100 degrees in the coming days with heat indexes — measured as a combination of temperature and humidity — reaching 110 degrees in those cities.

The Weather Service also issued a list of heat index highs topped by 4 Iowa towns: Knoxville, 131 degrees; Newton, 129; Atlantic, 126; and Council Bluffs, 126. Freeport, Ill., and Madison, Minn., followed at 124.

In Austin, where we have already had 35 days of triple digit temperatures and are expected to have more in the remaining months of summer, we have had a slight break with the highs dipping to 99 degrees as the dome of high pressure hovers north of us and expands eastward, but can expect to move back into our routine of 100 plus degree highs soon.

The heat wave has been blamed for at least 13 deaths since last week, the National Weather Service reported.

High temperatures were also responsible for an alarming spike in deaths of illegal immigrants trying to cross into the United States, according to the U.S. Border Patrol. It did not say, however, exactly how many had died due to weather, but they deployed search and rescue units in the south Texas brush country.

The heat also set new peak records for electricity usage.

Xcel Energy, which serves 1.64 million customers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota, broke a demand record on Monday with 9,504 megawatts of power used following the old record set in August 2010 of 9,100 megawatts.

In Nebraska, flood control work along the overflowing Missouri River was halted due to the heat, as officials worried that filling sandbags was too strenuous.

In Illinois, the second-largest corn and soybean producing state, the heat and humidity were not yet damaging crops, but a lack of rain is cause for concern.  Texas farmers and ranchers know all too well the impact a long period of heat and no rain can have on herds and crops.

Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States.

The National Weather Service statistical data shows that heat causes more fatalities per year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined.

Based on the 10-year average from 2000 to 2009, excessive heat claims an average of 162 lives a year. By contrast, hurricanes killed 117; floods 65; tornadoes, 62; and lightning, 48.

So everyone should learn the hazards of heat and the symptoms of heat related illnesses.  The following is from www.weather.gov


  • Symptoms: Redness and pain. In severe cases swelling of skin, blisters, fever, headaches.
  • First Aid: Ointments for mild cases if blisters appear and do not break. If breaking occurs, apply dry sterile dressing. Serious, extensive cases should be seen by physician.

Heat Cramps

  • Symptoms: Painful spasms usually in muscles of legs and abdomen possible. Heavy sweating.
  • First Aid: Firm pressure on cramping muscles, or gentle massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue use.

Heat Exhaustion

  • Symptoms: Heavy sweating, weakness, skin cold, pale and clammy. Pulse thready. Normal temperature possible. Fainting and vomiting.
  • First Aid: Get victim out of sun. Lay down and loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move victim to air conditioned room. Sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue use. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.

Heat Stroke

  • Symptoms: High body temperature (106° F or higher). Hot dry skin. Rapid and strong pulse. Possible unconsciousness.
  • First Aid: Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Summon emergency medical assistance or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.

Safety Tips

  • Slow down. Strenuous activities should be reduced, eliminated, or rescheduled to the coolest time of the day. Individuals at risk should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
  • Dress for summer. Lightweight light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight, and helps your body maintain normal temperatures.
  • Put less fuel on your inner fires. Foods that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.
  • Drink plenty of water or other non-alcohol fluids. Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty. Persons who (1) have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease, (2) are on fluid restrictive diets or (3) have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids. Do not drink alcoholic beverages.
  • Spend more time in air-conditioned places. Air conditioning in homes and other buildings markedly reduces danger from the heat. If you cannot afford an air conditioner, spending some time each day (during hot weather) in an air conditioned environment affords some protection.
  • Don’t get too much sun. Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that much more difficult.

So until the heat breaks, probably mid to late September for those of us in Central Texas, stay safe and hydrated.

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So put on a sweater and crank up the thermostat! That was the major trend late last week and over the weekend, when arctic weather led Texas to set another winter power usage record.  According to the Abilene Reporter News,

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator for most of the state, reported a winter record of 55,856 megawatts Friday between 7 and 8 a.m. to erase the previous high of 52,001 set just 12 hours previously between 7 and 8 p.m. Thursday.

Those of you paying close attention may recall that last year Texas also set the record for summer energy consumption.

This year Texas used more energy staying cool in the hot hot summer, and more energy staying warm in the cold, cold winter, than in any other time in the past.

It has been so unusually cold in North America that “wintry weather sweeping across the Northern Hemisphere has slowed coal deliveries in parts of the U.S. South.” Though we’re feeling the chill here, but its actually been unseasonably warm in most other parts of the world like Greenland where they usually count on that cold to re-form ice sheets — some scientists are even saying 2010 will very likely be one of the warmest on record.

In just a year Texas has faced searing hot summers, cripplingly cold winters, devastating drought, no coal for frosty’s nose… makes you wonder if there’s something bigger going on out there.  Like some sort of, oh I dunno, massive shift — a massive change leading to extreme weather events. Not sure what to call it now, I’ll have to get back to you on that one.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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