Archive for Thursday, September 7, 2000

Area still feeling effects of heat wave

September 7, 2000

A cool front that backed its way into northeastern Kansas Sunday may mean the end of triple-digit temperatures for the season, but area residents are still dealing with the consequences of the prolonged heat wave and the ongoing drought.

Faced with water supply concerns and the need to ensure adequate emergency supplies to fight fires, the city of DeSoto is asking residents to comply with a voluntary water conservation plan.

The plan asks residents with odd numbered house addresses to water lawns, wash cars and perform other outdoor tasks that consume water on odd-numbered days. Those with even numbered addresses are asked to perform the tasks on even-numbered days.

"We're not asking people not to water their lawns," City Administrator Gerald Cooper said. "We're just asking for their cooperation until the drought is over."

The only other real consequence the city has seen from the drought and heat wave is a large number of broken water lines, Cooper said. The dry conditions have caused the ground to shift, which breaks the lines, the city administrator explained.

In another response to the dry conditions, the Johnson County Commission has imposed a burning ban in the unincorporated areas of the county until the drought lifts.

With all its attendance centers air conditioned, the heat hasn't affected the DeSoto School District yet. Jack Deyoe, district energy conservation officer, said within the next few weeks the district will be hit with a large energy bill.

"We know it (the heat) is going to affect us," he said. "Because of computer equipment, we had to be careful that rooms were air conditioned for a longer period."

On the bright side, the bills will arrive early in the district's budget year, Deyoe said. That will allow the district flexibility in finding the revenue to pay them. By the same token, the cooling bills could well decrease the district's flexibility to address needs later in the school year, he said.

Many area residents are probably going to be shocked when they receive their next utility bills. Kansas Power and Light spokesperson Cynthia McCarvel said the utility realizes some will have difficult time paying them.

KPL works with each customer on a one-on-one basis, McCarvel said. If a customer has a good credit history with the utility and has shown a good-faith effort to pay summer bills, the customer can probably arrange a pay arrangement with KPL, she said. That generally involves paying half the bill this month and the remainder with next month's bill.

The utility's customer service personnel will direct customers to programs that offer help with electric bills, McCarvel said.

In Desoto, those calls will come to her, said Jodi Hitchcock, the coordinator of the DeSoto Johnson County Multi-Service Center. The county offers a utility assistance program that can provide assistance to residents meeting income guidelines, she said. It is available to qualifying individuals or families that have not taken advantage of the program in 2000.

In addition, Hitchcock said Catholic Services in Olathe administers KPL's assistance program Project Deserve. Like the county's program, it is limited to low-income families and individuals, she said.

If Dave Beusterien, a meteorologist with the U.S. Weather Service Station in Pleasant Hill, Mo., is right, we shouldn't be running our air conditioners as much the rest of the season. The cold front that backed its way into the metropolitan area from Iowa Sunday should mean the end of triple-digit temperatures for the season, he said.

"As is gets further into September and closer to fall, it gets more difficult to build that kind of heat because of the shorter days," he said. "We will probably see temperature 10 to 15 degree higher than normal daytime highs."

While temperatures in the 90s may seem cool compared to the plus-100-degree temperatures of the past three weeks, Beusterien said they will considerably warmer than the low-80-degree daytime highs that are the norm for early September.

Beusterien attributed the heat and drought to an upper level ridge of southeastern flowing air that established itself above us. As bad as the past few weeks were, it could have been worse, he said.

"The ridge threatened to develop all summer," he said. "It finally did in August."

We will only see significant rain when the ridge breaks down, and Beusterien predicted that it is just a matter of time before the Canadian jet stream moves south and does just that.

The U.S. Weather Service in Washington has good news for the thirsty Midlands, Beusterien said.

"They are predicting normal to above normal temperatures with greater than normal moisture through the fall and winter," he said

That is just what drought-stressed lawns and trees needs, said Johnson County Extension horticulturist Dennis Patton.

But he added we shouldn't be concerned about a lawn carpeted by dead leaves. Trees cope with heat stress by dropping leaves, Patton said, and property owners shouldn't give up on even the tree until next spring.

Those with less patience can test the health of their trees by bending smaller twigs and branches. A supple twig means the tree is still in good shape, Patton said. Also, the presence of green, healthy buds indicates the tree will snap back with rain.

"Most mature trees will be okay," he said. "Those less than five years old may need additional moisture. Most of the trees you see in nature will survive."

Some lawn grasses have died while others have merely gone dormant from the heat, Patton said. Again, only moisture and time will determine which applies to individual lawns, he said.

The drought came too late to affect the area corn crop, said Johnson County Extension Agricultural Agent Ryan Higbie. Soybeans planted in early May were hard hit by the drought while those planted or in late May or early June could still respond to rains.

"We're not going to see the crop (of soybeans) we've seen the past few years," he said.

Milo appears to be spotty, depending on local conditions and when the crop was planted, Higbie said.

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