August heat shows no signs of letting up after a record hot July (click to enlarge)
Onward, Summer Swelter (Again)!
Record Heat, Drought, Fire Danger Show No Retreat

Overview Updated
Like a broken record, the searing heat continues in Deep South Texas, with no break in sight into the heart of August 2009. While the region is known for its hot and humid summers, the persistence of the heat, relatively gusty southeast winds, and lack of any widespread rain events for most areas since early June remains impressive. Temperature data collected for June and July, compared with the full summer season (June through August), show most stations in Deep South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley in the top 10 hottest, all time. As of August 1st, McAllen was 0.1 degree above its all time summer average, while Harlingen was in fourth place. Brownsville, with the longest period of record – more than 130 years – was settled in at 8th. 1998 remains the benchmark summer, with June nearly equalling July’s heat in many areas. How August shapes up will go a long way to determining where 2009 will ultimately rank.

It’s certainly off to a fast, and hot, start. Thus far, through August 9th, temperatures were running 2.2°F above average at both Brownsville and Harlingen (86.5°F and 87.5°F, respectively) and 5.7°F above average at McAllen/Miller (92.3°F). At the McAllen Cooperative Observation station, the current June 1 through August 9 average of 88.9°F bests the 1998 record of 88.6°F; a similar difference is likely at Miller Airport, where averages remain around 90.8° with the 70 day average high temperature at a scorching 101.6°F!

Pattern Matters...Still
While the position of the strong high pressure system deep in the atmosphere has migrated a bit from its July location, there is little indication that plumes of deep tropical moisture will waft across the lower Texas Gulf coast anytime soon. During the weekend of August 7th through 9th, a shred of enhanced moisture reached into the area, but the lack of deep southerly flow along with gusty surface winds tearing at the ability for storm growth, left isolated pockets of measurable rains. Through the mid point of August and perhaps beyond, atmospheric high pressure will stretch across the southern U.S. and northern Mexico, extending into the Gulf, limiting the amount of deep tropical moisture necessary to produce widespread rains.

While slightly lower winds on the 12th and 13th may allow stray late morning and early afternoon showers along the sea breeze close to the coast, such rains will have any effect on the extreme to exceptional drought, nor the dry to extremely dry grasses and rangeland.

What to Expect? More of the Same
The combination of heat and humidity will make it feel more like 102°F to 108°F each afternoon across most of the area. Evenings will provide little relief as the apparent temperature will remain above 90 until after midnight for areas away from the coast. The potential for heat health related incidents continues, even during this hottest part of the year. Now that autumn scholastic athletic training has begun, and schools will be soon opening across the Rio Grande Valley, persons expected to spend any length of time outdoors are urged to continue following safety tips, below:

  • Slow Down. Schedule strenuous activities early in the morning, if at all.
  • Drink Plenty of Water. For healthy persons, be sure to drink water at all times, even if you are not thirsty. Persons on fluid restricting diets should consult their physicians before increasing consumption.
  • Dress for Summer. Lightweight, light colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight and helps maintain a lower body temperature.
  • Do not Drink Alcohol. Alcoholic beverages increase dehydration rate and could bring on heat stress or heat stroke rapidly.
  • Spend time in Air Conditioning. Cooler locations offer relief and some protection from heat dangers.
  • Avoid Sunburns. Sunburn makes heat dissipation from the body more difficult. As the summer solstice approaches, the angle of the sun reaches its peak, increasing the threat for sunburn in a short period of time.
  • Eat Lighter. Put less fuel on your inner fires. Foods that increase metabolic heat production can also increase the rate of water loss.
  • Never Leave Children Unattended in Vehicles. Not even for a minute! Temperatures rise rapidly inside a car, nearly 30°F in as little as 20 minutes. Click here for more information on children and hyperthermia.
For much more information, go to the National Weather Service's Heat Safety web page.


Drought Stress
According to the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service, the current drought continues to affect the production of grains and native rangeland and pastureland. Across the area, the grain harvest is expected to be small; supplemental feeding continues for cattle and other livestock, but losses are piling up as some herds are sold at lighter weight. Other livestock, including goats, sheep, and horses, are also sustaining productivity losses. The situation has become so critical that some herds are being liquidated as the water stocks disappear. Windmills and water wells continued to be used as a main source of water for livestock. Heavy irrigation of corn, sorghum, and citrus was allowing these crops to progress. Dryland crops, such as vegetables, pecans, and horticultural plants are being heavily damaged in some areas.

Wildfire Growth Potential
Dry to Extremely Dry Fuels will continue across all of Deep South Texas, as drought and heat continue. Moderate afternoon winds gusting in excess of 25 mph combined with marginally low humidity will keep at least an elevated threat for rapid wild fire growth on most days through at least August 16th. Burn bans remain in effect for most counties in Deep South Texas and all of the Rio Grande Valley. Parking vehicles or using grinding or other sparking machinery in grassland is highly discouraged. Residents with further questions about any burning should contact local officials.

Beating the Heat: The Beach
The prolonged heat and abundant sunshine has been a boon to beach goers and the Town of South Padre Island. July 2009 shaped up to the the opposite of July 2008, which began with clouds and rain from upper level disturbances and finished with Dolly’s heavy winds and rain. The resort town was full for the anniversary weekend of Dolly, a far cry from the second to last weekend in 2008, when widespread power outages left a shuttered town in the dark. Healthy crowds each day are great for business, but also provide more opportunity for those entering the surf to experience rip currents and longshore swell. The general weather pattern looks to remain benign, with east to southeast winds continuing at 10 to 15 knots and a light to moderate swell which should remain below 7 seconds. Experienced swimmers should find the pleasantly cooler waters a great way to beat the heat. Inexperienced swimmers should remain cautious, particularly where rip currents tend to form near the jetties of Isla Blanca Park, and at remote beach access points where deeper water can make navigating undertow associated with longshore swell more difficult.

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