On Wednesday, Columbians dealt with the first day of a heat wave that’s expected to persist through at least Saturday evening.
The National Weather Service on Tuesday issued an excessive heat warning that called for high temperatures in the 90s and heat indexes well above 100 degrees. The prediction was painfully accurate.
A little after 4 p.m. Wednesday at Columbia Regional Airport, the temperature was 91 and the heat index was 106. At the Sanborn Field Weather Station on the MU campus, the temperature was near 94 with a heat index of 107.
Despite the thick air, Columbians were on the job throughout the city.
Wednesday afternoon on Forum Boulevard, a crew from Cook Concrete Construction was busy patching a big chunk of the northbound lane between Nifong Boulevard and Club Village Drive. Dressed in bright green T-shirts and jeans, they had been there since 7 a.m. Wednesday.
Todd Cook said the company’s workers stay cool by taking two breaks in the morning, two in the afternoon and another at lunch.
Columbia Ready Mix, which poured the concrete the Cook crew was smoothing out, provided Gatorade for the workers.
“Not every company does that,” Cook said.
Sweat dripped from Jarell Cuno’s brow as he wiped his face with a gray cloth that he keeps hanging from a back pocket. He said he keeps cool by hydrating with water and slowing down when he can. His crewmate, Robert McKenzie, said the heat isn’t so bad when the crew starts in the morning.
Cook said it’s the nature of their job that there’s twice as much work in the summer, when it’s twice as hot. A city inspector on-site said that’s in part because streets can explode in the heat. The failing panels on Forum Boulevard had already been slated for repair before the heat wave began, though.
Across town at the Columbia Mall Car Wash, Colie Bandy stood by a fan blasting air at her face. Her hair blew in the breeze as she tried to cool off. There are several fans in the car wash’s garage.
Bandy said she also uses wet towels and Gatorade to stave off the heat.
Seth Blankenship was busy drying off a customer’s car while the sun beat down on him and the sea of pavement around him. He wore a wet towel around his head to shield himself from the heat.
If you were looking for people who were totally unfazed by the high temperature Wednesday afternoon as the heat wave began in Boone County, you could find a lot of them at the county fair in Sturgeon: farmers who are used to being outside, no matter what the weather is doing.
Terry Montague of Centralia was out at the fair with his 9-year-old son, J.T., checking on their steer. For the Montagues, the heat is nothing extraordinary. But they were taking precautions for their steer, “making sure they’ve got plenty of water and shade. We just put up the tarp over them.”
The tents over the animals were constantly being monitored by people taking shifts in the heat. Most of the steer had water buckets in front of them and fans blowing cool air onto their heads. Most of the animals were lying down.
Danielle Perrigo of Hallsville was giving her son commands to get one of their steers to stand up and drink more water.
“Twist his tail,” Perrigo said. “Slap his butt.”
Still, the steer didn’t want to drink.
When asked about the toll the heat was having on her, Perrigo said, “I don’t even want to think about it.”
Frank Hazelrigg Jr. of Frank Hazelrigg Cattle Co. in Bloomfield, which has been showing cattle at fairs for years, said his team had been ensuring their cows were kept cool.
Schyler Angell, 16, was reclining in a chair next to her goat with the fan blowing on herself. Angell said they had rags, buckets and fans to keep the goat cool. She said the fair is the best place for the livestock to be because it actually keeps them out of the heat.
Boone County Fair Director Jeff Cook said it wasn’t so much the heat affecting the livestock but a combination of the stress of moving them to the fair and the increased activity around them.
“We have people up there that are monitoring the barns, plus the adults with children that are showing. They monitor their animals pretty close and try to keep them cool and calm,” Cook said. “If we see an issue, we will definitely address that issue pretty fast.”
Cook said both the Boone County Fire Protection District and the Boone County Sheriff’s Department were at the fair to make sure everyone stayed hydrated and safe.
“We have the fire district’s bus sitting out here with the AC running,” Cook said. “They’re medics, so they can make sure that they’re alright before they turn them back out in the heat.”
The fairground’s air-conditioned recreation and youth buildings give people places to escape the heat.
“The biggest plus we have here in Sturgeon is all the shade trees that we have. People can sit down and rest a little bit,” Cook said. “When we were in Columbia, we were all out in the sun.”
Even slight relief from the heat isn’t expected until Monday, when what meteorologists call a “cold front” is predicted to bring the high temperature down to 87. By Tuesday, the high should be just 84, the weather service said.
Between now and then, though, highs are predicted to be 96 on Thursday, 98 on Friday, 97 on Saturday and 94 on Sunday. The heat index for Thursday is expected to reach 106.
Supervising editors are Katherine Reed and Scott Swafford.