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How Texans are coping with the brutal heat, from Austin to Abilene

Barton Springs Pool in Austin.
Michael Minasi
KUT News
Barton Springs Pool in Austin.

Texas is seeing another summer of record-breaking temperatures, with excessive heat warnings and advisories all over the Lone Star State.

Earlier this month, El Paso smashed its previous 23-day record of consistent days above 100, set back in 1994.

We asked public radio reporters across the state to see how people are coping with this brutal summer:

Running in San Antonio

Cameron Williams was cooling down from a run Monday evening in San Antonio's Brackenridge Park, where it was still 97 degrees in the shade at 8 p.m. – down from the day's high of 103.

"I try to get out here a couple times a week, but with the heat it's tough," said Williams, who is in the Army and stationed at nearby Fort Sam Houston. He likes to run at the park, with its shade and scenery, to keep up with military fitness standards.

"Usually I've gotta wake up super early or come out here usually probably later than now; it's still kind of hot out," he said. "It's kind of annoying because normally I'd like to work out after work."

But he still prefers it to running on the treadmill at the gym.

– Alexandra Hart, Texas Standard

'We honestly don't mind the heat'

The Stephan family moved to Abilene from Canada and prefers Texas’ hot weather to the extreme cold.
Heather Claborn
The Stephan family moved to Abilene from Canada and prefers Texas’ hot weather to the extreme cold.

In Abilene, one family says they’re just fine with the Texas summers. Sara and James Stephan moved with their five kids from Canada more than a year ago when Sara accepted a nursing job at the local hospital – and James says the -40 degree days they experienced in Canada were worse.

“I kind of describe it like opening an oven. Like that heat that blasts you in the face? But then once you’re out in it, it’s fine. We honestly don’t mind the heat," Sara said with a laugh while out on a morning walk.

So far, their neighbors at the RV park where they’re living are surprised by how much their kids play outside.

"If we were to keep them inside all the time then bring them out in the heat, then they would react to it a lot more severely," James said.

And despite highs reaching the 100s in the afternoons, Sara’s happy with the relatively low humidity.

"At least here in Abilene it’s a dry heat, so you don’t feel wet all the time," she said. "We have friends who also moved from Canada, I guess a year and a half ago, and they were in Houston probably for about four months in the summer. And they said they just never felt dry."

– Heather Claborn, KACU

Austinites keep cool at the pool

The heat has been record-breaking – but what has also been remarkable in Central Texas, especially earlier this summer, is the humidity. Fortunately, the City of Austin overcame perennial staffing challenges to open every public swimming pool this summer.

Over 140,000 people visited Barton Springs Pool in June, over 10,000 more people than visited the same month last year – and last June was also historically hot. It's part of a trend of hotter summers as a result of climate change and the urban heat island effect.

Austinite Laura Sartucci said she's been to Barton Springs three times this summer and plans to be back many times more.

"I was just telling my friend that I didn't even really notice the difference between like last summer and this summer. I don't know. It's hot," Sartucci said. "You just love the cool water. Like the cool water is definitely what chills you, like cools you off."

Public health officials are telling people to do what they can to stay cool and hydrated. In Austin, they say heat-related illnesses doubled last month from the previous year, and EMS calls are also way up.

– Mose Buchele, KUT

'An oven's a dry heat, too'

The Dustbreakers, a Lubbock cycling group, take a second lap around the Canyon Lakes near the American Windmill Museum on July 16, 2023.
Weston Davis
Texas Tech Public Media
The Dustbreakers, a Lubbock cycling group, take a second lap around the Canyon Lakes near the American Windmill Museum on July 16, 2023.

Lubbock’s Mackenzie Park was bustling around 10 a.m. on Sunday morning, with families fishing along the river and taking advantage of the 74-degree temperature.

Drake Haney, a member of the Dustbreakers cycle group – which is out at the park every Sunday – was preparing to start a second lap around the park.

"It was cool, it said 68, when I walked outside," Haney said. "Cloudy, nice breeze. This is a beautiful day."

Though temperatures later creeped up to 97.

"This summer has been particularly warm," Haney said. "100+ days, I mean, I don’t even know how many days now. It’s unrelenting."

It does feel more humid in Lubbock this summer, thanks to much-needed rain and sporadic thunderstorms – but it's not what people are used to. When weather comes up, folks in the area often say “At least it’s a dry heat.”

But that’s not fooling Haney: "An oven’s a dry heat, too," he said.

– Sarah Self-Walbrick, Texas Tech Public Media

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