Coping in the heat

Columbia residents try to beat the heat
Thursday, August 16, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:27 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008
Steven McRoberts, right, hangs out by a fan on Wednesday at Douglass Park during the P.R.I.D.E Community Day of Sharing.

COLUMBIA- The heat just keeps on comin’.

Today, forecasters expect the 13th straight day of temperatures reaching the 95-degree mark or higher. If today’s high reaches 100 degrees as predicted, it will be the fourth consecutive day the temperature has hit triple digits.

A cooler high-pressure system from Canada had been expected to move into central Missouri on Wednesday, but it remained north of the area. As a result, the National Weather Service extended the excessive heat warning for the area, which had been set to expire at 7 p.m. Wednesday, to 7 p.m. today, said meteorologist Ben Miller.

“It’s not normal to be quite as hot as what it has been, but it’s not at all uncommon to have a stretch of two weeks that’s 90 or 95 in August,” Miller said.

Though Wednesday’s high hit 104 degrees, the highest of the year, it didn’t break record for the date, which was 108 degrees and set on Aug. 15, 1936.

Columbia residents appear to be heeding the reminders about remaining hydrated and keeping cool. This summer, only three patients have needed treatment for heat-related illnesses at MU Health Care facilities, said Jeff Hoelscher, MU Health Care’s media coordinator.

In the St. Louis area, eight people have died due to the heat during the August heat wave, and the death of a 47-year-old Jackson County man in the Kansas City area has been attributed to the heat.

Hickman High School has cancelled some evening practices for the football and softball teams this week, and Wednesday’s morning practice was cut short, said Stefanie West, a certified athletic trainer for Hickman. She said the football team has experienced only a couple cases of dehydration.

If the heat doesn’t break by next Tuesday, many returning students will be facing hot classrooms in Columbia’s public schools. Almost half of the buildings do not have air-conditioning.

A $60 million bond issue was passed in April that will pay for central air to be installed in five more schools in Columbia in the next year, said Lynn Barnett, assistant superintendent for support services for Columbia Public Schools.

The schools on the list for central air are Benton, Parkade, Russell Boulevard, Fairview and Blue Ridge elementary schools, said Michelle Baumstark, school community program and communications director. She said the city should begin work in November and hopes to finish by the start of the 2008-09 school year.

Schools have methods for helping students through the hot days. “We’re just careful about making sure the children have enough water to drink and enough breaks,” said Beverly Borduin, principal of Grant Elementary School. Grant is an older school that has window air-conditioning units in classrooms.

“It’s hard on adults, too,” Borduin said. “It’s hard to teach in the heat.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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