Record Heat Scorches Texas

ByAngela K. Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The culprit is an upper-level high pressure system stalled overmuch of the state for more than two months, blocking any fronts ormoisture 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 forrain in central and eastern Texas this weekend, forecasters said.

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

Fire DangerThe National Weather Service issued an extreme fire dangerwarning in north central Texas today, the 67th consecutive daywithout rain in the area.

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

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

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

Gary Hunt, owner of G.L. Hunt and Co. in Fort Worth, said about120 people call him daily, and other foundation repair companiesacross the state also report increased business due to the drought.

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

He said homeowners can prevent such problems by watering an hourdaily with a soaker hose placed 18 inches away from thefoundation’s edge or using a sprinkler system at least 30 minutes aday.

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