By Joe Darby
I don’t think I remember a summer that was this hot for this long, and forecasters are saying more 100+ degree days are in our near future.
We got a little bit of a break in the wake of that heavy electrical storm Wednesday night and Thursday, as I write this, is just a bit less hot than recent days. But more scorchers are to come.
We only have to recall the recent tragic death of the young archaeologist working in the Kisatchie National Forest near here to realize how dangerous this heat is. Kaylen Gehrke, 24,originally of Montana, was working off of the Long Leaf Vista in Kisatchie when she suddenly collapsed Monday. Although colleagues tried to revive her with CPR, the young woman died of apparent heat stroke. She had been working in 98 degree weather with a heat index of 107. It is a tragedy that a young person just starting on her career was snuffed out before her time because of weather.
I am one of those who has always hated the heat. I can take a day that tops out at 30, with brisk winds and low wind chills over any day in which the temp rises more than 90. I can go outside in the cold and, within minutes after coming inside, be warmed up again and comfy. But when I go outside in this draining, humid heat, I am pretty much washed out for the day — tired, sweaty and limp.
I imagine age has much to do with my inability to face the heat, but even when I was young, I didn’t like it. I remember walking several blocks to my summer job in a downtown Baton Rouge department store when I was in high school. It was a June morning and already the heat on those concrete sidewalks was stifling. I was wearing short sleeves but was walking near a businessman in a coat and tie and I kidded him about his attire. He agreed, and said he hated the heat too.. I was walking several blocks because I would park just outside the zone that had parking meters, centered around Third Street. Yes, I did hate the heat but a kid on a tight budget has to save where he could.
Things were not much better at school. Catholic High School was not air conditioned. But like young fools, we would still go out for recess in September and May, the beginning and of term months that were still hot, and play ball. We tramp back to the classroom, sweat pouring off of us like we’d just jumped into a swimming pool. I imagine the aromas in our classrooms were not exceedingly pleasant for the good Sacred Heart brothers who had to be closeted with us in the home rooms
And of course there was the ordeal of driving cars that were not air conditioned. You’d go out to your car — which had been closed up sitting in the sun all day — in the afternoon after work or school, open the door and stand back as a mass of air straight out of hades hit you in the face. You’d quickly roll down all the windows in the car but it was hard to touch any metal surfaces in the vehicle lest you burn your fingers. Vent windows would direct a warm breeze on to you, but it was still hell on wheels.
One of the great days of my life was when we got window AC units for our home. It was a new world. We could actually walk into comfort when entering the house. We could sleep at night without tossing and turning under sticky sheets all night. Mother could cook a summer meal without nearly passing out from heat.
I’ve become so dependent on my AC now that this heat wave has almost made me a recluse, not going out except to grocery shop and check the mail.
But, to wrap up, let me reiterate about the dangers of weather like this. Stay inside as much as possible, drink lots of water and if you start to feel poorly, take action. All we can do is to be careful and say, “Come on October, hurry up.”