Triple-digit heat wave stifling residents in Texas

August 4, 2011 2:05:54 AM PDT
Even refreshing watermelons at a produce stand weren't luring many folks from their air-conditioned cars Wednesday as blistering temperatures soared to 110 degrees in Mineral Wells, making this North Texas town among the hottest spots in the state. Outdoor antiques shops, downtown stores, car dealership lots and even people's yards were mostly deserted as residents remained indoors and tried to stay cool during one of the state's hottest summers on record.

The searing sun forced construction workers to take long afternoon breaks in nearby Possum Kingdom Lake, about 75 miles west of Fort Worth, where some of the 160 homes destroyed in the spring wildfires are starting to be rebuilt. Few boaters and fisherman were on the lake Wednesday, even for a weekday, locals said.

"We'll get the boat out on the lake about 6 o'clock, and it will still be 100 degrees, but it feels less intense," said Doug Brown of Dallas, who has been staying in a condo with his wife and two sons on weekends and some summer weekdays since their lake house was destroyed in the fire.

Ann Brown said she and her family, who are rebuilding their lake house, have been staying indoors in their condo to avoid the oppressive heat this week, playing cards, video games, watching television and spending time on the computer.

"It's hot, but we'd rather be out here than our (Dallas) house, and we have a pool there. It's beautiful here with the ranch land," she said.

Wednesday was the 33rd consecutive day of triple-digit temperatures in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and the 37th in a row for Tyler. The record for the Dallas-Fort Worth area is 42 days and Tyler's former record was 16 days, both set in 1980.

Tyler and Mineral Wells both reached a sizzling 110 degrees; Paris, Dallas and Fort Worth, 109 degrees; and Sherman, 108 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

In Dallas County, at least 13 deaths have been attributed to the heat so far this summer, according to health department officials.

Power demand in Texas hit another record level for a third consecutive day Wednesday, and officials asked residents to conserve energy in the hopes of avoiding rolling blackouts. The Electronic Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state's bulk transmission grid, set a new electricity demand record with 68,294 megawatts and expected to break the record again Thursday.

In Houston, where temperatures were expected to hit 101 degrees Wednesday, officials activated emergency cooling shelters. A reality TV show for the A&E network about Texans who hunt feral hogs had to suspend filming because of the heat.

Six months ago nearly to the day, much of Texas was in the grips of a massive winter storm, part of a 2,000-mile long snow and ice storm that barreled through the nation's midsection. It led to a record winter peak demand for electricity and prompted rolling electric outages in Texas one day in early February.

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