Columbia temperatures soar to a four-year high

As students return to town, advisories offer tips to beat the heat and stay safe.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:31 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

For the second consecutive day, the temperature in Columbia topped 100 degrees Monday. This summer is the first time in four years the mercury has soared so high.

The temperature officially peaked at 101 Monday, narrowly missing the 103-degree mark set on Sunday.

No major problems were reported Monday, though a small power outage northwest of downtown kept some businesses in the dark for more than an hour starting at 6:23 p.m. The outage, which affected sections of Business Loop 70 and Providence Road as far south as Ash or Walnut streets, was the result of failed wiring near a breaker at Columbia Water and Light, which had issued a peak alert warning early in the day urging people to conserve electricity until after 8 p.m.

Water and Light spokesman Mike Willingham said heat probably played a big part in the outage.

During the hottest part of the day, some Columbia residents found relief by staying indoors. Many without air conditioning relied on electric fans.

Fans, however, might not be the most effective form of relief. Brian Quinn of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services suggested blowing fans across a container of ice to cool the air.

Cindy Mustard of the Voluntary Action Center said more than 200 Columbia families have sought fans since May through the agency’s Summer Fans Program.

“We have been really swamped with fan requests,” Mustard said.

Local hospitals reported seeing a few heat-related cases. Boone Hospital Center reported that only a few people with heat-related illnesses have visited the emergency room. Lori Lupe, manager of emergency services at the University hospital, said four patients — all of whom work outside — have come to that hospital with heat-related illnesses.

Some MU students were also in need of heat relief over the weekend.

“You just cannot sleep,” said Laura Jones, a resident of Hudson Hall. Hudson is one of five residence halls that lack air conditioning.

Jones, an MU sophomore, spent two nights in a friend’s off-campus air-conditioned apartment.

“It got up to 97 degrees in our room,” Jones’ roommate, MU sophomore Maria Boehm, said.

John Humlicek, associate director of Residential Life Facilities Operation, said five of 19 undergraduate dormitories lack air-conditioned bedrooms.

“These buildings were not originally built with air conditioning,” Humlicek said. “However, we have a long-term master plan in place that will eventually add air conditioning to these remaining five buildings.”

MU does, however, provide one fan for each room without air conditioning. Students with special medical needs can also buy air conditioners and pay a $185 fee for the university to install and remove them, according to Residential Life policy.

Chris Mallory, assistant superintendent of Columbia Public Schools, said that fans are installed in all classrooms and that students will be given plenty of water breaks when school starts next week. The district also has issued a heat-related early dismissal schedule.

It was a challenge for those working outside to stay cool.

“Every time I see a water fountain I stop and take a drink,” UPS delivery driver Derrick Bradley said.

Despite high temperatures, local athletic teams continued regular practices Monday but were mindful of the heat.

“We’re being extra cautious so students don’t get dehydrated,” said Vicki Reimler, athletic director for Rock Bridge High School.

Chad Moller, a spokesman for the MU Athletic Department, agreed that hydration is the focus.

“We’re keeping water handy,” he said.

Relief from the heat should come Thursday when a cold front brings scattered showers and clouds to the area, said meteorologist Joe Pedigo of the National Weather Service in St. Louis.

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