News After 1 death, Southern heat wave eases slightly with front
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — An oppressive heat wave blamed for a death in Mississippi eased a little across the Southeast on Wednesday after a cold front pushed through the region, bringing damaging storms along with lower temperatures.
Stifling heat and humidity that had made it feel like it was 120 degrees (49 Celsius) in places was replaced by slightly cooler weather, forecasters said. Damaging overnight storms ripped up roofs, knocked down power lines and toppled trees in northwest Alabama. No injuries were reported, but the National Weather Service warned of additional severe thunderstorms near the Florida Panhandle as the front moved southward.
The excessive heat began earlier this week and stretched across much of the U.S. In the South, it limited outdoor work details for Alabama inmates and prompted requests from Baltimore teachers to install temporary fans in sweltering classrooms to make up for faulty air conditioning.
In Mississippi, Winston County Coroner Scott Gregory said a 74-year-old woman died of a heat-induced heart attack while mowing her lawn on Monday. The heat index was about 106 degrees (41 Celsius) at the time, he said, and the woman’s body temperature was about 105 degrees (40.5 Celsius) at a hospital where she was treated. Gregory said the woman’s family didn’t give permission for him to release her name, but she had a medical history that included multiple health problems and heart surgery.
Gregory said it was so hot in Mississippi he banned his 7-year-old son from practicing with his youth football team on Tuesday.
„You’ve got to have common sense,” he said. „I mean, these are kids.”
Heat alerts that extended northward into the Midwest earlier this week were limited on Wednesday to Gulf Coast states plus Georgia and South Carolina. The heat index was expected to reach around 110 degrees (43 Celsius), forecasters said. Higher temperatures also were expected in central California and the Southwest, where forecasters predicted afternoon highs could hit 115 degrees (46 Celsius).
Even Alaska was hot. The National Weather Service office in Anchorage tweeted that the overnight low of 63 degrees (17 Celsius) tied the all-time high for a daily low temperature. The normal low is 51 degrees (10.5 Celsius), it said.
Ahead of the start of the school year, Baltimore’s teachers union requested fan donations as classrooms are expected to reach sweltering temperatures when students return next month. But district officials said electrical systems might not be equipped to handle it.
In Alabama, prison officials limited outdoor work details for inmates, and officers also were running large ventilation fans and providing prisoners with extra water and ice, spokesman Bob Horton said.
A 68-year-old Sun City woman has been hospitalized after she was bitten by an alligator while walking her dog Monday night in her neighborhood, according to S.C. Department of Natural Resources spokesperson David Lucas.
The woman, whose name has not been released by SCDNR, was walking in her backyard around 10 p.m. Monday when she encountered a 9-foot-long alligator between her home and her neighbor’s. The alligator bit her on the calf and wrist, Lucas said, and then ran away.
Her dog ran away during the attack and was not injured, he said.
The woman was treated on the scene and transported to Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, Lucas said. He said her injury on her wrist was “somewhat worse” than the injury to her leg.
The alligator likely came from a pond about 25 yards from the woman’s home, Lucas said. Around midnight, he said SCDNR crews captured a 9-foot-5-inch, male alligator and euthanized it.
Later Tuesday, SCDNR removed a second, 8-foot-7-inch female alligator from the pond behind the woman’s home.
Lucas said Monday’s attack is different from an Aug. 20, 2018 attack in which a woman in Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island was killed after an alligator attacked her dog.
“It doesn’t seem like the gator attacked the dog,” he said. “It seems like she didn’t see (the alligator) in the dark.”
The attack happened on Landing Lane in Sun City, according to a news release from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.
Alligator attacks in South Carolina
There have been two alligator-related deaths in South Carolina since the state began keeping records in 1976, Lucas said in 2018.
Cassandra Cline, 45, was dragged into a lagoon and killed by a 9-foot alligator in August 2018. Her husband is suing the private Hilton Head Island community where she was attacked.
The other fatal attack was in 2016, when a 90-year-old woman slipped and fell down an embankment into a pond and was bitten.
Lucas said SCDNR’s main advice to the public: Do not feed alligators.
“Feeding alligators can quickly make them dangerous to people,” Lucas said in 2018. He said once people do this, the alligators start associating people with food and are more likely to approach them.
Lucas said people should always be aware of their surroundings if they’re in an alligator-friendly habitat — just about any body of fresh water in the Lowcountry — and not throw anything at alligators in the water.
If someone does see an alligator approaching, Lucas advises walking backwards to back away.
In July 2018, an 8-foot alligator attacked a dog in Long Cove Club. The dog was running out of the pond in a backyard when it was bit on both of its back legs. The dog survived and was treated with stitches.In 2013, a woman walking two dogs near a lagoon in Hilton Head Plantation was attacked by an 8-foot alligator that charged out of the water at her. She slipped and fell when she tried to run away, and the alligator bit her ankle. She kicked it, and it ran away.In 2009, an Ohio man was playing golf on a Fripp Island course when he leaned down at the edge of a lagoon to pick up his ball and a 400-pound alligator grabbed him by the arm and dragged him into the pond. The man survived, but lost his arm.This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
ATLANTA (AP) — The Latest on the heat wave spreading across the U.S. South and Midwest (all times local):
The operator of the electric grid that serves most of Texas has declared an energy conservation emergency as temperatures across much of the state approached or exceeded 100 degrees (38 Celsius).
The Energy Reliability Council of Texas appealed to all of the state’s consumers of electric power to limit and reduce their usage during the peak demand hours of 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday after reserve capacity fell below 2,300 megawatts.
No rotating power outages were immediately reported.
ERCOT suggests setting thermostats 2 to 3 degrees higher, set pool pumps to shut off from 4 to 6 p.m., turn off and unplug nonessential lights and appliances, and avoid using large appliances such as ovens and washing machines during peak hours.
A megawatt is about enough electricity to power roughly 200 homes running air conditioners during hot weather.
The Dallas Zoo prepared for large crowds Tuesday during $1 admission day even as forecasters predicted triple-digit temperatures and issued a heat advisory.
Zoo spokeswoman Chelsey Norris says a typical summer weekday would attract 2,000 guests. Norris says a Dallas Zoo dollar admission day in July drew more than 30,000 visitors, with temperatures in the 90s.
Norris advised visitors Tuesday to be prepared for hot weather by using sunscreen and drinking lots of water.
Misting tents were set up throughout the Dallas Zoo to provide visitors with another way to cool down.
Norris says zoo personnel closely monitor the animals and move them to cooler indoor areas as needed.
She says elephants would be soaked with water cannons and offered frozen ice treats.
Forecasters say most of the South — from Texas to parts of South Carolina — will be under heat advisories and warnings as temperatures will feel as high as 117 degrees (47 Celsius).
The most intense heat Tuesday is expected in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alabama; and in areas near Memphis, Tennessee.
The warnings come one day after the temperature and humidity combined for a Monday heat index of 121 degrees (49.4 Celsius) in Clarksdale, Mississippi. It was only a few degrees cooler in West Memphis, Arkansas.
In Alabama, the highest reported heat indexes Monday were 112 degrees (44.4 Celsius) in Florence, Tuscumbia and Gurley.
Forecasters say the heat index is what the temperature actually feels like.
A break from the heat is expected by Wednesday as a front pushes through.
Chris Mooney and a team of reporters and analysts at The Washington Post have produced the most important piece of climate journalism that we’ve seen in a very long time. It is a detailed account of how the most extreme consequences of the climate crisis are already here in the United States, and where they at this moment are having the most serious impact. (Also, for the benefit of uninformed dunces like myself, there’s an even a one-click feature that converts temperatures from Celsius to Fahrenheit.) Needless to say, the information is an insanely detailed accounting of how thoroughly fcked we already are.
New Jersey may seem an unlikely place to measure climate change, but it is one of the fastest-warming states in the nation. Its average temperature has climbed by close to 2 degrees Celsius since 1895 — double the average for the Lower 48 states…The potential consequences are daunting. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that if Earth heats up by an average of 2 degrees Celsius, virtually all the world’s coral reefs will die; retreating ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica could unleash massive sea level rise; and summertime Arctic sea ice, a shield against further warming, would begin to disappear.
Well, that sounds bad. But the effects of the climate crisis are not evenly distributed—this gives some blank ammunition to the denialist side—and the most seriously affected places can come as something of a surprise, at least to anyone who doesn’t live there.
Alaska is the fastest-warming state in the country, but Rhode Island is the first state in the Lower 48 whose average temperature rise has eclipsed 2 degrees Celsius. Other parts of the Northeast — New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts — trail close behind. While many people associate global warming with summer’s melting glaciers, forest fires and disastrous flooding, it is higher winter temperatures that have made New Jersey and nearby Rhode Island the fastest warming of the Lower 48 states.
The handy map provided by the team gives you a vivid illustration of where the hot-spots are, from northern Michigan to the Arizona desert. The Acela corridor from Boston to Washington is conspicuously displayed.
Scientists do not completely understand the Northeast hot spot. But fading winters and very warm water offshore are the most likely culprits, experts say. That’s because climate change is a cycle that feeds on itself. Warmer winters mean less ice and snow cover. Normally, ice and snow reflect solar radiation back into space, keeping the planet relatively cool. But as the ice and snow retreat, the ground absorbs the solar radiation and warms. NOAA data shows that in every Northeast state except Pennsylvania, the temperatures of the winter months of December through February have risen by 2 degrees Celsius since 1895-1896. And U.S. Geological Survey data shows that ice breaks up in New England lakes nine to 16 days earlier than in the 19th century.
There’s also a deep dive into the immediate effects of the crisis. Beaches are disappearing in Rhode Island. Adios, property values and local small business.
Some residents want the beach’s owners to fight off the sea, Loura said. “They think they should build a sea wall, they should bring in tons of sand,” he said. “Last year, they spent a lot of money on sand. Guess what? It’s all gone.” Thoresen’s family is moving a convenience store and office for the second time in a decade — this time all the way back to the 18th row. “We moved it back 100 feet, and it only bought us 10 years,” Thoresen said. “That’s crazy.”
And the ripple effects of a warmer planet shake entire ecosystems. There’s a lake in New Jersey that used to freeze in the fall so thickly that it supplied ice to New York City. Now, it doesn’t freeze until January, and its warmer water has resulted in an algae bloom that’s made swimming in the lake impossible. And there are also the beetles.
The ⅛-inch-long southern pine beetle had been largely confined to southern U.S. forests — hence its name. But the warmer temperatures have spurred the beetle’s migration north, where it has damaged more than 20,000 acres of the state’s Pine Barrens, a vast coastal forested plain that Congress has defined as a national reserve. „They are changing the Pinelands,” says Matthew Ayres, a Dartmouth researcher who has studied the beetle. „It may not be too long before people are driving through the Pinelands saying, ‘Why do they call it the Pinelands?'”
Actually, they may be boating through there, but the point remains. The crisis is here, now.
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Even amid rain early Wednesday morning, drought is spreading across South Carolina.
The South Carolina Drought Response Committee upgraded the drought status of 33 counties when it met Monday. The group will meet again in three weeks to update conditions.
Chester County is one of 24 statewide now listed in moderate drought. It’s the second tier of four categories ranging from incipient to moderate, severe and extreme. A block of counties in the center of the state, toward its western edge, show moderate conditions. So do several mid-state counties to the far east.
York and Lancaster counties rank among 20 statewide facing incipient drought. York and Lancaster maintained that status Monday. Nine counties statewide were added to that list.
Only two counties, Charleston and Berkeley along the coast, fall in normal, drought-free conditions. So far no counties make the severe or extreme listings.
The U.S. Drought Monitor lists its status not in counties, but it areas similar to a weather map. As of Aug. 8 the lower half of York and upper half of Chester counties registered abnormally dry conditions. So did the middle portion of Lancaster County. That level is the first of five in the federal system, related to severity.
The drought monitor estimated then there were more than 244,000 people in South Carolina living in drought conditions.
Below normal rainfall and summer heat, along with impacts to crops and pastures statewide, were driving factors in raising the drought category for so many counties. Beef cattle producers are, according to the drought group, liquidating cattle herds or feeding spring harvest hay due to extremely dry pastures.
Hydrologists show a different outlook. Health department water monitoring experts report water systems aren’t reporting supply issues. Stream flow levels have declined steadily the past month, but lakes remain near target levels after significant rainfall last winter.
As the drought committee met, Lake Wylie actually sat just above its target level.
Even in wet months this area has seen its share of water concerns.
Blue Granite Water Company put outdoor water use restrictions in place for Lake Wylie just before Memorial Day. Those restrictions remain in place, despite at times near flood level rains in the area, at least through October.
In June, Tega Cay asked its residents to start voluntarily conserving water. Both the Lake Wylie and Tega Cay conservation efforts related to high water use demand as much as, and often more than, dry weather itself.
Just last week, Fort Mill asked its residents to start conserving water. That notice listed ongoing work to expand the Rock Hill water filter plant on Cherry Road, which takes some water distribution services offline temporarily. Rock Hill draws water from Lake Wylie, and distributes it to York County, Fort Mill and Tega Cay. York County sends it to its customers, along with Blue Granite which then serves Lake Wylie.
The National Weather Service didn’t report any rain in the Rock Hill area from the state drought committee’s meeting until early Wednesday morning. The airport in Rock Hill collected .13 inches of precipitation, all of it between 2 and 4 a.m.
The Lancaster airport Wednesday morning reported .18 inches of rain the past seven days, all of it in the past 24 hours.
Chester County, the furthest along in the drought status listing, registered the most rainfall at its airport. An afternoon thunderstorm Tuesday and early morning storms Wednesday combined for .4 inches of rain.