Heat

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Mention the year 2011 to any Austinite who lived here then, and expect to get an earful. It was the hottest year recorded in Austin's history – so hot and so dry that living through it has become a kind of shared trauma for many.

A man with his dog sitting at the intersection of Airport and I-35.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

There was a time when it seemed like summer could have gone differently: A wet spring and relatively mild June had us thinking maybe this year wouldn’t be so bad.

Boy, that didn’t last long. 

Annie Haigler steps out of her home in Louisville, Ky., pulling a handkerchief out of her pocket to dab sweat off her forehead. She enjoys sitting on her porch, especially to watch the sunrise. She has always been a morning person.

But as the day progresses, the heat can be unbearable for her. On summer days like this, when highs reach into the 90s, the lack of trees in her neighborhood is hard for Haigler to ignore.

"That's what I'm accustomed to trees doing: They bring comfort. You don't notice it, you don't think about it. But they bring comfort to you," she says.

When Temperatures Rise, So Do Health Problems

Aug 24, 2019

A little Shakespeare came to mind during a recent shift in the Boston emergency room where I work.

"Good Mercutio, let's retire," Romeo's cousin Benvolio says. "The day is hot, the Capulets abroad, and, if we meet, we shall not 'scape a brawl."

It was hot in Boston, too, and people were brawling. The steamy summer months always seem to bring more than their fair share of violence.

But the ER was full of more than just brawlers. Heart attacks, strokes, respiratory problems — the heat appeared to make everything worse.

Quinlin Talyor, lifeguard
Michael Minasi for KUT

The triple-digit heatwave hitting Austin is becoming one for the record books. On Wednesday, it became the fifth longest ever recorded in the city's history, and more hot days are expected.  

Hot cars
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Update at 5:26 p.m.: ERCOT announces the need for conservation has ended.

The original post follows:

Texas' electric grid-operator put out a call for conservation today as it faces record demand amid soaring temperatures.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This July is on track to be Earth’s hottest month ever recorded, and that spike in heat is part of a larger warming trend that could change the way governments and researchers measure extreme temperatures.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin has had 48 triple-digit days so far this year. That puts this summer on track to be the third hottest ever recorded in the city in terms of average temperature. It also continues a trend of warming in the region that became more pronounced around the turn of the century.

Was it hard to concentrate during that long meeting? Does the crossword seem a little tougher? You could be mildly dehydrated.

A growing body of evidence finds that being just a little dehydrated is tied to a range of subtle effects — from mood changes to muddled thinking.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Take a rapidly growing state, add a scorching heat wave, and you have a recipe for historically high electricity use. So it was that Texas broke the record for power demand three times in the last week. Through it all, the state’s electric grid operated without major disruption.

That success nevertheless revealed some interesting things about the ways we generate and consume electricity.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Kristie Reeves woke up to her clock blinking 9:43 a.m. She and her husband, Brett Cavaliero, had overslept. Their baby Sophia, or "Ray Ray," hadn't awakened them to be fed, which Kristi usually used as an alarm clock.

The Austin couple scrambled to get ready for work, but other than their oversleeping, Reeves said, it was a typical morning. She walked outside to say goodbye and watched as Cavaliero drove off to take Ray Ray to daycare.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Human attempts to control the weather go back millennia.

There was fire, of course, for keeping warm when winter's cold takes hold, but taming the sweltering heat of the summer is a much newer pursuit. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Last month was the hottest May ever recorded in the Austin area. If that has you worried about what's in store, you have good reason to be: A vicious circle of self-perpetuating heat descends on Texas in the summer.  

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUTX

People love to wax nostalgic about the Austin of decades past. The rents were cheaper, the traffic was lighter, the music was live-r. Some of that talk may be history viewed through rose-colored glasses, but there is at least one metric by which Austin was, literally, cooler: the temperature.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Depending on what thermometer you’re looking at, this year’s average temperature has been between 5 and 7 degrees hotter than usual so far in Austin. That could set 2017 up to be one of Austin’s hottest years ever.  People who research climate change already know a lot about how warmer temperatures disrupt human activity. But hot days may have an impact on our mental health that we’re only just starting to understand.

flickr.com/mrgarin

Austin’s seen its first triple-digit day of the summer. Just before 1 p.m. yesterday, Central Texas thermometers cracked the triple-digit seal, according to the National Weather Service. While the thermostat has thankfully stayed pretty low so far this year in Austin, that’s going to change.

When it comes to triple-digit days in Austin, the best way to describe what’s happening is, “Never would’ve been better than late.”

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Today marks the anniversary of Austin’s first 100-degree day in 2012, but Austinites have yet to face temperatures in the triple digits this year.

If current weather patterns continue, Austin may only experience a few 100-degree days this summer. That’s according to Cory Van Pelt, a forecaster with the National Weather Service for Austin/San Antonio.

flickr.com/rampant.gaffer

Firing up the grill? Don’t expect to be fired up at work.

With this year's Fourth of July holiday falling on a Wednesday, many workers are taking vacations in addition to the mid-week day off. Though summer vacations are commonplace, the quantity of workers taking off at the same time could spell trouble for some companies.

But John Challenger, CEO of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, told KUHF that not all companies will be hurt.

“For a busy company, there’s just the risk that they can’t produce the same amount worker-hours they need to provide a high quality service or product," he said. "For companies that are in a slowdown, it’s probably not a bad idea to get their vacations loaded up at the same time.”

Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Triple-digit heat is putting pressure on the state’s electrical system. Texas set a record yesterday for peak demand during the month of June. Officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas are asking everyone to reduce electricity use from 3 to 7 p.m. That means turning up your thermostat by a couple of degrees and avoiding use of large appliances during those hours.

The City of Austin and the State of Texas are some of the largest energy users in the city.

Carlos Cordova is with Austin Energy. He says the city relies on Austin’s Energy’s Load Cooperative program for alerts about peak usage and to track incentives for reducing use.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Electricity Demand Hit New June Record Yesterday

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator for most of Texas, reported hitting a new June record for peak electric demand Monday. Electricity use peaked from 4-5 p.m., when 65,047 megawatts were needed.

A previous record occurred last June, when 63,102 megawatts were used. ERCOT’s all-time peak demand, at 68,379 megawatts, occurred last August.

Triple digit temperatures are forecast for the remainder of the week in Austin. 

KUT News

A temporary schedule change for Austin ISD schools and offices goes into effect today. AISD says the change is an effort to cut energy usage this summer.

Starting today and running through July 27, AISD offices will be closed on Fridays. Employees will work 10-hour days Monday through Thursday. Office hours will be 7 a.m to 6 p.m.

Schools and offices will be completely closed the week of July 2.

KUT News

Are those Texas summers feeling increasingly warmer? Don't worry, it's not just you. 

According to a report released today by the Climate Central research group, Texas is ranked as the 9th Fastest Warming State, with average state temperatures increasing at a rate of .575 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. The survey was based on temperatures in the continental United States between 1912 and 2011. 

Though the increase might not seem huge, the Southwest, including Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, is the fastest warming region in the country.  

"That'll translate into increased wildfire risk, make droughts more severe because of the increased heat, and have lots of other adverse effects on the region," said Richard Wiles from Climate Central.  

KUT News

As the Texas heat rolls in, some local organizations are trying to figure out how to help the elderly and homeless weather extreme temperatures. 

“Water shouldn’t be a luxury,” says Steve Luteran, Executive Director of Front Steps, which provides assistance for the homeless. “Hydration is a fundamental need of the human body. Without it, Austin’s homeless face heat exhaustion, stroke and permanently disabling conditions.”

Front Steps will begin distributing roughly 76,000 bottles of water to the homeless on Wednesday.

And what of the elderly? Family Eldercare has a different method to help them stay cool. They’re planning to deliver around 7,000 fans and 100 air-conditioners to individuals and families in need. 

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Since its creation in 1970, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has experienced blackouts (or in its vocabulary, rolling outages,) only three times. With the majority of that burden falling on residential properties, the community has cause for interest – but not concern – according to ERCOT’s leaders.

“We don’t expect this summer to have to resort to rotating outages,” said ERCOT Director of System Planning Warren Lasher. But, he says, “if we have another summer like 2011, the most extreme summer we’ve experienced, then we’re likely to have at least one day in which we start running short on reserves.”

Reserves are generators dedicated to picking up the slack when other generators fail, or when there is a greater electrical demand. ERCOT has enough reserves to generate over 3,000 megawatts (MW). To put that in perspective, one megawatt of electricity can power about 200 Texas homes during the hottest day of the year. Overall, ERCOT has a 74,000 MW capacity.

A slow-moving depression strengthened into a tropical storm as it slogged toward the Gulf Coast on Friday, packing walloping rains that could drench the region with up to 20 inches.

Tropical Storm Lee, the 12th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, was moving northwest at just 2 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The storm's center is expected to approach the Louisiana coast over the weekend.

A wind-whipped wildfire that destroyed more than three dozen cliff-top homes in North Texas was expected to burn through most of the tinder-dry trees and shrubs in its path by daybreak Thursday, helping firefighters contain the late-summer blaze during the state's severe and seemingly endless fire season.

Photo by KUT News.

Austin Ties for Hottest Temperature

How did you stay cool yesterday? Austin tied the highest temperature it has ever seen Sunday. The high of 112 at Camp Mabry tied the record set in September 2000. Central Texas is under a heat advisory until nine tonight.  Highs today are expected to be near 107. YNN Meteorologist Adam Krueger has more on the historic heat in his weather blog.

With Austin shattering the record for triple digit days in a single year, we wondered what it was like to work in some of the coldest jobs in Austin. KUT photography intern Daniel Reese produced this video on ice resurfacer Brandon Brewer with Chaparral Ice.

With Austin shattering the record for triple digit days in a single year, we wondered what it was like to work in some of the coldest jobs in Austin. KUT photography intern Daniel Reese produced this video on ice sculptor Doug Christy of Amazing Ice Designs.

Image courtesy National Weather Service

The sweltering heat in Texas has taken Austin past an important milestone: We have set a new record for the number of days with triple digit temperatures in a single year.

At 2:00 this afternoon, thermometers at Camp Mabry registered 100 degrees, making it the 70th time this year that has happened. It breaks the previous record of 69 days set in 1925.

“This is just one way to measure the absolute severity of the summer,” Lower Colorado River Authority meteorologist Bob Rose told KUT News. “We’ve had a lot of days at 99 as well, and they’ve felt every bit as hot.”

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