Record Heat Scorches Texas

F O R T  W O R T H, Texas, Sept. 5, 2000 -- Much of Texas continued roasting today in record-breaking, triple-digit temperatures that sent utility companies scrambling to keep up with demand.

Austin was sweltering in 112-degree heat, breaking the city’s all-time high of 107. That record had been broken Monday when the temperature hit 110.

Thermometers also soared past the 100-degree mark today and broke daily records in Del Rio, San Antonio, Houston and Lubbock.

Some utility companies urged customers to cut back during peak hours as a precaution.

“The equipment is stressed. It’s like driving a car with the pedal to the floor for two months,” said Carol Peters, spokeswoman for TXU Electric Co., the largest electric and gas company in the state with 2.6 million customers. “But we’re not close to having any brownouts or blackouts.”

No Hiding From The Heat Several cities shattered all-time high records Monday: 112 degrees in College Station, 109 in San Antonio and Houston and 104 in Galveston.

Other areas Monday reported record highs for September: 111 degrees in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and 107 in Del Rio.

The hottest temperature ever in Texas was 120 degrees, recorded in Seymour in August 1936 and Monahans in June 1994.

“Things may be bad, but at least we’re not close to breaking that record,” said Lonnie King, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Fort Worth.

Relief in Sight As of today, temperatures have exceeded 100 degrees for 57 days in Del Rio, 45 days in College Station, 44 days in Dallas-Fort Worth, 37 days in Austin, 20 days in San Antonio, 20 days in Houston and 12 days in Lubbock this year.

The culprit is an upper-level high pressure system stalled over much of the state for more than two months, blocking any fronts or moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, meteorologists said.

But the system is starting to weaken and move to the northwest, which should drop temperatures into the 90s and bring a chance for rain in central and eastern Texas this weekend, forecasters said.

Forty heat-related deaths have been confirmed this year in the combined Dallas and Houston areas.

Fire Danger The National Weather Service issued an extreme fire danger warning in north central Texas today, the 67th consecutive day without rain in the area.

Elsewhere in the state, 61 fires continued to burn over 8,000 acres Tuesday.

Besides increasing chances for fires, parching crops and drying up reservoirs, the high temperatures and below-normal rainfall also are taking a toll on many houses.

Dry soil combined with this spring’s excessive rain has caused soil to swell and lift foundations. The lack of rain this summer caused slabs to drop 3 to 5 inches, resulting in cracked sheetrock and brick veneer pulling away from windows and doors.

Gary Hunt, owner of G.L. Hunt and Co. in Fort Worth, said about 120 people call him daily, and other foundation repair companies across the state also report increased business due to the drought.

“This year’s been really intense,” Hunt said. “My call volume’s insane. I can’t even field all the calls for estimates.”

He said homeowners can prevent such problems by watering an hour daily with a soaker hose placed 18 inches away from the foundation’s edge or using a sprinkler system at least 30 minutes a day.

“If you haven’t caught it by now, it’s too late,” Hunt said.