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Heat taking toll on some businesses, workers

By Sonny Long
July 20, 2011 at 2:20 a.m.

A bead of sweat runs off of Bryan Green's nose as he trims bushes Wednesday with his company, Green's Lawncare and Edging. Green said that his business has dropped about 20 percent this summer. "It's just so dry and hot," he said about his dropping business. There were more 95-degree-or-above days in the area this past June than there has been in 10 years, according to the National Weather Service.

Never Leave Children Or Pets in Hot VehiclesDuring one day last week, Victoria Police responded to three separate incidents of pets being left in vehicles at the Victoria Mall.

Mall visitors and others are urged to use caution during these extreme temperatures and never leave children or pets in their vehicles, no matter how short the trip inside the mall or elsewhere.

Nationwide since March 2011, there have been 17 incidents of toddlers dying from being trapped in a sweltering car. Last year, 49 children in the U.S., from ages two months to six years, died from heat stroke while left unattended in vehicles - the worst year on record, according to a news release from The Safe Kids USA Network.

Safe Kids Network cites three primary reasons why children are left unattended in cars:

In over half of cases (51%), children were forgotten by a very distracted driver when they arrived at their destination.

In about 30% of cases, children climbed into an unlocked car or trunk to play, couldn't get out on their own and were overcome by heat.

In about 20% of cases, kids were intentionally left alone by a driver as they ran an errand.

Dial 911 immediately if you see an unattended child in a car. EMS professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble.The speed with which a child's body temperature rises makes fast response critical. Check vehicles and trunks if a child is missing.

Sweat poured down Bryan Green's face.

Clippers buzzing, the owner of Green Lawn Care tackled the next shrub, the plus-95 degree heat bearing down on him.

Green, 36, knows the extreme heat can take its toll.

"I encourage my guys to make sure they drink plenty of water and eat something during the day," Green said. "You'll start feeling bad. I've had to take guys to the hospital for that exact same reason. You can't just work through it. You've got to stop, take care of your body and rest a little bit."

So far in 2011, the temperature in Victoria has reached 95 degrees or above on 48 days, 10 of those days it climbed to 100 or more.

This year also has been the second driest start to a year, since records started being kept in 1851, according to the National Weather Service.

The heat and drought has had an affect, too, on Green's business.

"It's tough right now," Green said. "The grass is stressed out, and when grass isn't growing, people are delaying lawn care. It has cut into our business 20 to 30 percent."

The slowdown in business also means Green can't add a third full-time worker, and he's having to do more of the work himself.

Others, both man and machine, are also feeling the affect of the hot temperatures.

Bruce Blaha, owner of Blaha Land Management, said the continued high temperatures also has affected his workers.

"It has not only cut into productivity, taking longer to do jobs, but my workers are suffering from dehydration. I've had a couple of guys who have gotten into trouble with the heat," he said.

Blaha said the equipment also takes a beating.

"It's hard on the equipment, too. Blades dull quicker," said Blaha. "Maintenance costs are up."

The upside, Blaha said, is that he is getting more calls for irrigation systems.

"I've had to revamp, fix or put in more irrigation systems in the last three months than in the last couple of years," said Blaha, whose company handles commercial jobs.

Other businesses are also benefiting from the heat.

"We are busier than usual," said Bill Myrick, service manager for Victoria Air Conditioning. "Our priority is someone who calls and has no cooling at all."

Myrick said they also get calls for units not cooling well or not keeping up.

"Some units are simply not designed for this type of prolonged heat," Myrick said.

HISTORIC HEAT

National Weather Service statistics illustrate how hot and dry it's been.

In addition to the number of days this year at 95 degrees and above, June was especially hot.

"We had more 95 degree or hotter days in June 2011 than we've had in all the Junes the past 10 years," said John Metz of the NWS.

The 10 days of 100-plus degree temperatures is about average for the entire year with the rest of July and a traditionally hot August and September remaining, Metz said.

The second driest start of the year on record shows only 7.17 inches of rain through Tuesday. Only 2009 was drier with 6.84 inches, said Metz.

Is there relief in sight?

"The good news is that La Nina, which is mostly responsible for the warmer and drier normal conditions this past year, has dissipated and we are currently in a neutral state," Metz said. "The Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 40 to 50 percent probability of warmer than normal conditions persisting through the remainder of the summer."

"We can only hope for an influx of deep tropical moisture not associated with a tropical cyclone," Metz said. "This is typically what brings rainfall during the late summer period."

HURRICANE SEASON

How have the high temperatures and lingering high pressure system increased the likelihood of a hurricane forming near the Texas Gulf Coast?

Metz said the peak of hurricane season is quickly approaching.

"All the major hurricanes to hit Texas have occurred during the August-September time period," Metz said. "It is impossible to predict where the storms will make landfall beyond five days from the formation of a tropical cyclone."

Dale Link, who has been predicting hurricane landfalls for the United States Atlantic coastline for the past 21 years and for the Gulf of Mexico coastline for the past 13 years, thinks Texas will get hit this year.

During this 13-year period, 12 hurricanes landed inside Link's predicted landfall zones and three landed outside his predicted zones, according to his website.

Link predicts a hurricane will hit the Gulf Coast centered at Brownsville with a 320-mile range that would reach Austwell in Refugio County.

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