Too much heat, not enough rainfall

Columbia Water and Light is close to asking residents to limit water use, a spokeswoman says.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:22 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

It’s hot. We haven’t had a good rain in a long time. And it’s about to get worse.

The National Weather Service on Tuesday issued a statement warning of an “extended period of dangerous heat” beginning today. Highs are expected to reach the mid-90s during the week and could hit 100 degrees by the weekend.

“We fully expect we’ll be issuing heat advisories by this weekend,” said Jim Sieveking, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Don’t count on rain showers to cool things down, either. The National Weather Service predicts sunny days and mostly clear nights through Monday.

“It doesn’t look like we’re going to have any major systems until Tuesday night or Wednesday,” said Sieveking.

That forecast is bad news for mid-Missouri farmers.

Columbia has received only eight one-hundredths of an inch of rain so far this month, according to National Weather Service data. The city normally receives 2.36 inches for the month through July 19.

“The corn is hurting every week we don’t get rain,” Columbia farmer Ron Anderson said Tuesday. But the high temperatures are his main concern. “This heat is hurting worse than drought.”

Anderson, who is unable to irrigate the 400 acres of corn and soybeans he grows near New Franklin, estimates that he has already lost between 10 percent and 25 percent of the yield from his corn crop.

“Each week it stays dry, we could lose an additional 10 percent,” he said. Anderson said his soybeans still have a chance, since their need for rain is more critical later in the growing season.

The lack of rain and high temperatures are affecting city dwellers as well.

The Columbia Water and Light Department set a record Friday by pumping 21.8 million gallons of water in one day, followed by 21.4 million gallons Saturday, department spokeswoman Connie Kacprowicz said. On an average day, the department pumps 13 million gallons, though use is always higher in summer when people water their lawns.

When water use reaches 21 million gallons a day for several days, officials issue advisories asking people to cut down on the amount of water they use, Kacprowicz said.

“We’re near a water conservation advisory,” at which point residents would be asked to voluntarily curtail their water use, she said. As use nears capacity, stricter alerts and warnings could be issued.

“Certainly we don’t want to see anyone wasting water at this point,” Kacprowicz said.

Kacprowicz recommends watering lawns first thing in the morning and making sure to use a properly sized sprinkler in order to avoid watering the sidewalk. She said lawns need only about an inch of water per week.

To keep cool, try to stay in an air-conditioned location, such as the library or mall, during the peak heat hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., said Heather Baer, spokeswoman for the Columbia/Boone County Health Department. She also emphasized the importance of drinking plenty of fluids.

“You really have to keep hydrating yourself,” she said. “Water’s really the best thing to keep your body from losing fluids.”

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