Hot, dry weather forecast to continue

Friday, August 10, 2007
Dayna Arthur, 8, was sprayed in the face Thursday as Katie Schnell, 11, blasted her with her water gun from behind during the Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department's day camp at the Osage Community Centre. The camp's activities were all inside until Thursday as the department found a way for children to stay cool with water-related activities. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

The heat wave gripping the region is expected to continue at least through the next week, with only slight relief as daytime highs fall from the upper 90s to the mid-90s.

Official highs observed at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport by the National Weather Service peaked at 99 degrees Thursday before a few clouds and rain showers moved through the city. Observed highs hit 98 degrees Wednesday. Measurements taken by the Southeast Missourian in downtown Cape Girardeau showed a high of 100 degrees Wednesday, but Thursday's downtown high won't be known until today.

"You won't see any kind of relief for the next week, at least," said Robin Smith, a forecaster with the weather service's Paducah, Ky., office.

Temperatures are expected to remain above 95 degrees through Thursday, while the long-term outlook calls for continued above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation.

Cape Girardeau has experienced 15 straight days with highs above 90 degrees, Smith said. The record for most consecutive days with highs above 90 is 28, set in 1983.

A heat advisory expired at 7 p.m. Thursday, and the National Weather Service expects heat index values to build starting Sunday, again reaching the triple-digit range.

Jerry Aufdenberg is all too familiar with those high temperatures. Aufdenberg runs a roofing and siding company and serves as a volunteer firefighter with the Millersville Fire Department. On Thursday he worked on a roof in the morning before the temperatures became too hot. When he was finished, Aufdenberg was called to a fire.

He hasn't checked this year, but last year, Aufdenberg said, he took a thermometer onto a roof during the summer heat and got a reading of anywhere between 132 and 138 degrees.

"It just gets to the point where you can't do anything," Aufdenberg said. "With me being an EMT, I keep an eye on the guys. If they start to weave, you know it's time to take them off."

The Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department took its children's day camp inside the Osage Community Centre this week even though outside activities had already been scheduled. Camp personnel did let the children go out in Thursday's heat -- allowing them to play with water balloons and squirt guns and take rides on an inflatable waterslide.

The Osage Centre was also opened up as a cooling center this week, but recreation coordinator Amy Roth said facility staff members don't keep a count of who uses it for a cooling center as opposed to other uses. The Salvation Army on Good Hope Street also opens its doors as a cooling center, while Cape West 14 Cine offers discounted movie ticket prices during heat advisories.

Both Southeast Missouri Hospital and Saint Francis Medical Center reported a few cases of heat-related illness since the beginning of the week, but no heat-related deaths have been reported.

From travel to home life to economics, the heat is affecting seemingly all aspects of life in Southeast Missouri.

Air conditioning becomes more than just a comfort. But if an air conditioner goes out in this weather, immediate repair might not be available.

"Your call load doubles," said Flori Heating, and Cooling co-owner Larry Rice. Rice said customers who call with a malfunctioning unit may have to wait until the next day for service. The company pulls its installation personnel into service roles to handle the extra calls.

Meanwhile, road crews have to keep an eye out for "blow ups," where high temperatures cause pavement to expand too much and jut up from the plane of the road. Local MoDOT and Cape Girardeau crews have reported few blow ups during the current heat wave, though.

Local municipal water suppliers say there's enough water to meet the excess demand without rationing.

But with nature supplying so little water, it's the crops, not the lawns, that are in the most danger. Corn, beans and especially hay are being hit hard by hot weather combined with a lack of water. Gerald Bryan, an agronomist with the University of Missouri Extension's Cape Girardeau County office, said the heat and lack of rain now might damage yields at harvest time.

Even irrigated crops are under stress from the heat, Bryan said. Most affected are hay fields.

"The pastures are turning brown," Bryan said.

335-6611, extension 182

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