Heat wave breaking records

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 21, 2000

VIDALIA, La. — Government paperwork came in handy Friday — as makeshift fans for Concordia Parish courthouse employees.

&uot;We’re burning up,&uot; said Concordia Parish Police Jury Robbie Shirley said a few hours after the facility’s cooling system blew a fuse early Friday morning. The problem was fixed by 3 p.m. Friday.

And Shirley wasn’t alone. Throughout the Miss-Lou, temperatures had been near record highs for the past week, with highs reaching into the high 90s and low 100s.

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Natchez reached another record high Friday as the mercury creeped up to the 100 degree mark – two notches higher than the previous high of 98 recorded in 1962.

Last Sunday Natchez also reached a high of 101 said Royce Fontenot, a climatologist with the Southern Regional Climate Center in Baton Rouge.

One effect of the sizzling heat has been early peaks in electrical usage, said Robert Lesley, a communications specialist with Entergy in Jackson. Last year, Entergy’s system — which includes Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and part of Texas — had the highest electrical usage of the year on Aug. 18, with a total of 20,664 megawatts for that day.

On July 12 of this year, Entergy had already hit its annual peak of 21,000 megawatts.

&uot;I haven’t checked since then, but with temperatures staying up so high, I&160;wouldn’t be surprised if we hit new peak usages every day since then,&uot; Lesley said.

Temperature records have been recorded throughout Mississippi and Louisiana, Fontenot said. Last Sunday, for example, Jackson set a daily record of 106 — just one degree shy of tying that city’s highest-ever record. And this week, Monroe and Alexandria reached daily records of 102 and 103, respectively. &uot;I’m glad I&160;work in an office,&uot; Fontenot said with a laugh.

Such high temperatures, however, can turn deadly. In Louisiana, eight deaths in recent weeks are thought to be linked to the heat.

In Mississippi, at least three deaths have been linked to the month-long heat wave.

But the Miss-Lou seems to have been lucky in that respect. The emergency room at Riverland Medical Center has seen no cases of heat exhaustion in recent days, said Assistant Administrator Billy Rucker.

And Concordia Fire District No. 1 Chief Nolen Cothren, whose department handles medical calls throughout the parish, said the department has only responded to one heat-related injury in recent weeks.

In that incident, a construction employee working to widen Louisiana 15 south of Deer Park passed out in the heat but suffered no major injuries, Cothren said.

&uot;That was about three weeks ago, and we’ve been pretty lucky since then,&uot; Cothren said, adding that occasional showers have kept grass fires at a minimum despite the dryness and heat.