August 5, 2008

Heat Continues

By Michele Munz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Aug. 5--Monday felt like the hottest day of the year so far in the St. Louis area, and today could be hotter.

While August typically features hot and humid weather, this heat warning carries a bit of a jolt. The mercury previously has topped 95 degrees only three times this summer.

"We should exceed 95 degrees approximately 20 times in a normal year," said National Weather Service meteorologist Ben Miller. "And we're already down two of the three hottest months."

To provide some relief from Monday's mugginess, the First Financial Credit Union in St. Charles replaced its usual free stickers for children with about 400 free freezer pops. "These are not just for kids, though, they are for all our members," said teller supervisor Nicole Alsop.

Customers helped themselves to a rainbow of flavors that filled a cooler in the middle of the lobby. Tellers sent the pops through the pneumatic tubes for drive-up customers who responded to the sign, "Ask for a freezer pop."

"We thought it would be fun," Alsop said.

Monday's high hit 98 degrees, but a heat index of 112 degrees made it feel worse. That index takes into account how temperature and humidity combine to change how hot it feels.

An excessive-heat warning is in effect until 7 p.m. today. A break is expected tonight, as a cold front brings a chance for rain and lower temperatures for the rest of the week.

The warmest day so far this year was July 20, when the mercury hit 99 degrees. But the St. Louis area made it through the last 10 days of July -- typically the warmest period -- without any triple-digit temperatures.

Miller attributes the lack of extreme temperatures to a record year for precipitation, which has brought cloudier and cooler days.

That precipitation, however, is now driving up the heat index as the sun beats down. "With as much standing water as we have around the area, and the soil moisture levels as saturated as they are, that is all contributing to the dew point," Miller said.

Several cooling sites are open across the area for those needing relief, and residents are asked to check on their elderly and disabled relatives and neighbors.

"This is a community effort to keep our community healthy," said Paulyn Snyder, executive director of Continuum of Life Care Center, which is providing water and ice to the homeless in the Metro East area during the excessive heat.

Meanwhile, if you're complaining about breaking a sweat during a short walk to the parking lot, think of Jared Long, 31, who runs a small lawn care service in the Dallas area. The city in Texas is expected today to experience its 25th consecutive day of triple-digit temperatures.

Long's four workers start pushing mowers at 6 a.m. and work until the heat is unbearable, usually about 11 a.m., he said. They resume around 6:30 p.m. and work until the sun sets.

"It's the usual summer routine," Long said. "You get your bandanna, wet it down and wrap it around your neck, drink your power drink, and go at it."

[email protected] -- 314-340-8263


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