Dearmont Hall residents sweat out record heat

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

There are no less than five fans in Ashley Horton's dorm room.

"We have a window fan, and a fan in front of that. I have a fan on my bed and desk. And we have one by our front door," Horton said. "I still wake up in a sweat."

Even in October, temperatures have soared to the upper 80s. Dearmont Hall, the Southeast Missouri State University dorm where Horton lives, had temporary air conditioning through mid-September, but the contract ran out. Officials weren't expecting the heat to continue into the fall.

"Every morning I see the weather and I get nervous if it's up in the 80s for our Dearmont residents," said Bruce Skinner, Southeast's residence life director.

Cape Girardeau's high of 89 degrees on Sunday broke the record of 87 degrees set 1962, according to the Weather Channel's Web site. The average high for October is 70 degrees.

Administrators will meet next month to consider expanding portable air conditioning units to include the entire building. Currently, the units are only provided to returning students in two of 10 sections of the dorm. What the units would do to energy bills and how they would withstand student use still must be evaluated.

The units cost between $300 and $500, Skinner said, and electrical capacity would need to be increased. Dearmont, built in 1958, houses 328 students and is the only dorm without air-conditioning.

This year the university spent $30,000 for the temporary air conditioning for students without window units. The air came through flexible ducts in the bathroom and the equipment was powered by its own generators. Students said the fix helped, but didn't reach students whose rooms were at the end of the hall.

"The farther down the hall, the warmer it got," said Dearmont residet Ben Calvert. And now, he laughs, it's hard to discuss the current situation without bad language.

He hopes the Weather Channel's prediction that temperatures will dip into the low to mid 70s by the end of the week pans out.

But, students agree there is an upside to the heat: Everyone meets in the lounges, where there is air conditioning, and has gotten to be close.

"Everyone knows everyone. We're all friends. We bond in sweat together," resident Stephanie Aday said.

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