In Texas, temperatures above 100 degrees have been the norm this summer. The streak of 100 plus days in Dallas reached 29 straight on Monday, when rain finally cooled things down a bit. The Dallas-Fort Worth TV station, WFAA, has covered the heat wave extensively. Here are some excerpts that tell the story in the words of WFAA reporters.
GLORIA CAMPOS: A string of sweltering temperatures in North Texas reached a deadly high of 110 yesterday.
CHIP MOODY: And today the devastating toll of those temperatures is slowly coming to light. Several people have died. Medical personnel are on alert, and even livestock and pets are not safe from this unbearable heat wave. We have several reports to bring you today on the heat.
ANITA VANETTI: This could be the worst summer on record for Dallas County. The air conditioning repair service was going to install a new part to fix Donald Brock's air conditioner. But he died of a heat related illness Sunday before the repairs could be made. The 58-year-old man from Pleasant Grove is one of five confirmed deaths on Sunday, the hottest day on record this summer in Dallas County. Here at Parkland Memorial Hospital we wanted to show you what they have standing by at all times in case. There's an ice bin out here full of ice, full of saline for an IV for the person who may come who is suffering some type of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. That's able to be tacked around the person. They do that in this tub-like gurney, if you will. It's an ice bath that ends up going around the patient to get their temperature down quickly.
BILL BROWN: In Johnson County, south of Forth Worth, rancher Don Masse watches his Holstein dairy cattle and worries about them. Just this morning one of his cows died, he's sure, he says, killed by the oppressive 110 degrees on Sunday.
DON MASSE, Rancher: You know, when that humidity is like it is and it gets up in that 105 and 10 and high humidity, the cattle just don't have enough way to cool theirselves. I'd say I don't think a completely healthy cow maybe would just fall over dead, but a cow that's got something wrong with it to start with, it just kills it.
BILL BROWN: The suffering beasts crowd in close together, fighting for the shade of an open-sided shed. You can see their sides heating as they pant. Some of them have their tongues hanging out. This young calf uses every bit of a small patch of shade under a tree.
DON MASSE: Most of the cows I want to say in Texas are giving from 15 to 20 percent less milk than they was giving in May.
BILL BROWN: That's got to cost you guys money.
DON MASSE: Yes.
TRACY ROWLETT: It's now been just a little over 24 hours since Dallas County declared a heat emergency, and in that time, both county and city hotlines have been extremely busy. The city's new response system set a record today.
CARMEN AINSWORTH: The Dallas County Department of Health & Human Services is battling the heat wave head on, by installing air conditioners in the homes of people who need them the most.
UNIDENTIFIED GENTLEMAN: The equipment has all been donated for the most part. And so we have an individual to call in from all over the county--AC units, as well as individual fans.
CARMEN AINSWORTH: Since the department set up its hotline on Tuesday, 700 people have called to ask for help. Nurses answer the calls and determine who needs help the most. Then requests are filled on a priority basis. They hope their efforts will stop this deadly heat in its tracks. Tutson's granddaughter says in this case it has definitely made a difference.
GRANDDAUGHTER: We sure appreciate-temperature's been in here about 120 degrees and it's killing all of us in here, especially my grandmother.
GLORIA CAMPOS: It is the 16th straight day of triple digit temperatures in Texas, and every day South Texas cotton farmers take a financial hit. Area gins are hiring fewer workers because there simply isn't enough cotton to harvest. One farmer says he's lost 90 percent of his crop, yet, he fears rain because it could wash away the seeds he just planted. And you can blame the heat for the high price of produce. Vendors at the Dallas Farmer's Market say Texas watermelon and tomatoes, among other produce, now sell for double what they cost last year. That's either because of the shortage, or because fruits and vegetables have been ripening too early in this heat and perishing sooner than usual.
JOHN McCAA: The relentless heat has forced federal authorities to declare the entire state of Texas an agricultural disaster area. With that declaration, President Clinton promised $100 million in relief for Texas and ten other states hit hardest by this summer's heat wave. The emergency fund will help pay for air conditioners, fans, and soaring electric bills. It will also open up low-interest loans to farmers hit by the drought. The money comes from a federal energy assistance program. President Clinton declared all 254 Texas counties eligible for drought disaster help. And in Austin, Governor Bush made a similar move, announcing $1 million in emergency relief funds.
TROY DUNGAN: Once again tomorrow, it will be quite hot, but it won't feel much, if any, hotter than it is. I suspect 104 would be a reasonable figure for tomorrow afternoon. Well, that's not reasonable, but it's probably what it's going to be, and then tomorrow night's low is going to be maybe 79, because it's a little drier, and then Wednesday sunny and 103. A cold front coming through Kansas on Wednesday-do you think it's going to get here? No, I don't think so. Let's talk about the five-day outlook at 6.
CORRESPONDENT: Okay. We'll do that.
GLORIA CAMPOS: Texans caught between the parched earth and the cloudless skies are working together to survive. Tonight Channel 8's Jim Douglas takes us near Decatur in Wise County, where it took a team effort to save one man's farm.
JIM DOUGLAS, WFAA-TV Reporting: Wise County farmlands are too dry for crops or pasture, but they're just right for this. Volunteer firefighter Blake Thortonbury had to attack with a feed sack because he arrived ahead of his trucks
SPOKESMAN: Well, we thought we had it. Then it jumps back up again.
JIM DOUGLAS: Three helicopters from the U.S. Forestry Service joined the battle North of Decatur.
HAROLD "TOOTER" PRUETT, Farmer: This helicopter, he's fighting a losing battle.
JIM DOUGLAS: The smoke is billowing form land owned by Harold Pruett, known around here as "Tooter." He's watching insult added to injury. The hot, dry weather already ruined his hay crop and stunted his Milo. Now he watches flames march across pasture land, where he hoped to graze his cattle, and that's not his biggest worry of the moment.
HARRY "TOOTER" PRUETT: I'm worried about the house.
JIM DOUGLAS: A Forest Service bulldozer arrives to plow a fire break around Pruett's house.
HARRY "TOOTER" PRUETT: I won't call my wife till it's all over. She's got a mild heart condition.
JIM DOUGLAS: Friends show up with offers to help move cattle or horses, but the helicopters finally get the upper hand.
GLORIA CAMPOS: Two large water mains ruptured today, and Forth Worth crews are dealing with a dozen smaller breaks every day. Channel 8's Angela Davis joins us now live with more on that. Angela.
ANGELA DAVIS: Gloria, both of those ruptured lines are very close to being repaired this evening. The extreme heat and lack of rain has left the ground very dry. As a result, the earth is shifting, making it very easy for water lines to rupture. Add to that extra stress on the lines because of high consumption and you've got a real challenge for the city's water crews.
REPORTER: At first glance it has the appearance of a curbside swimming pool, but a closer look reveals a serious problem. The murky water covers a 24-inch water main that ruptured overnight, flooding the intersection of Knox Street and Miller Avenue. Minutes later, a second line broke. Water shot nearly 75 feet into the air at Avenue B and
MARY GUGLIUZZA, Forth Worth Water Department: When these two lines broke, we were already doing all we could to keep up with supply and demand here because of the record numbers we were using and pumping overnight.
EDDIE GRAY, Forth Worth Water Department: Just leave it-you know, tighten it-it's shooting out the sides. Then I'm going to make-
REPORTER: Forth Worth water crews are working overtime to keep up with all the water main breaks, big and small.
DOUG FOX: The city fountains here is one place where the City of Dallas is attempting to stop the flow or the loss of water-all city fountains have been shut down because the city manager has imposed what is called a water watch.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Water, we're using more than 700 million gallons of it every day, a new record. Dallas and 19 other cities that buy their water from Dallas are pushing the city's water treatment and pumping stations to the limit. So the city has posted a water watch. It's voluntary restraint.
JANELL MIROCHNA, Dallas Water Utilities: We're asking our customers to really think about how they're using water and try to use it more wisely. Use what you need, but don't waste it.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: In neighboring Grand Prairie, which buys 2/3 of its water from Dallas, code enforcement officer Doris Kirby is on water patrol. Grand Prairie has imposed new mandatory restrictions on water use.
ANCHOR: For most people the rain didn't last long, and some got none at all.
CHIP MOODY: In fact, for a while, it looked like most of it would escape up to Oklahoma. We sent Channel 8's Gary Reaves out to find the nearest storm, and it turned out to be quite a chase.
GARY REAVES: After 29 straight dry days, the search for rain was as desperate as a manhunt. We were fortunate to have Doppler Net, an expert, help.
SPOKESMAN: Decatur, probably just north of Decatur, you may actually get wet.
GARY REAVES: Do you think it's possible to peter out before we get there?
SPOKESMAN: It's possible. If I were you, I'd leave now.
GARY REAVES: Okay. Bye. So North we went, hoping to catch the rain before it crossed the Red River. The only water we've seen so far is this little lake. But even as the clouds moved in on Denton, locals seemed certain the rain would not be caught here.
TOM HUTCHINSON, Denton: I don't think so.
GARY REAVES: Think we're going to find any today?
TOM HUTCHINSON: I don't think so.
GARY REAVES: Out in the country we kept seeing signs, though the creek this sign warned of was bone dry, the sky was exploding with lightning and eventually thunder. Finally, as we approached Ponder, it started to sprinkle. Then it started to pour. The rain started O'San Neely and his wife to waving and smiling while the winds had a young mother next door chasing down her children's toys.
O'SAN NEELY, Ponder: It's wonderful. Nice and cool right now. It beats this 105 degree weather we're having.
GARY REAVES: When's the last time you said nice and cool?
O'SAN NEELY: It's been a long time.
GARY REAVES: And as soon as it started, it was over. This is the same street in Ponder one hour later.
CHRISTINE GRAHAM, Ponder: It needs to rain like it did today for about a week solid, straight.
GARY REAVES: Gary Reaves, Channel 8 News, Ponder.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Forecasters predict that after a brief respite, temperatures in the Dallas area will climb above 100 degrees again early next week.
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