By Taylor Short
The Cove Herald
While it's not the hottest summer on record, day after day of 100 degree-plus temperatures this August can threaten the health of those who work and play in the sultry sunlight.
Just hours before heavy rains somewhat squelched the heat Wednesday afternoon, Copperas Cove residents found their own ways to beat the heat while others just endure it.
Bill Paul, 29-year employee of the Coryell County Road and Bridge department, sat in a truck on an empty stretch of dust-covered Grimes Crossing Road with the doors wide open Wednesday. The noon sun baked the rocks on the ground and the metal railroad tracks radiated heat, but Paul said keeping hydrated is the best advice. Others who need help, or are looking for jobs of their own, flock to Cove House Emergency Homeless Shelter where Director Linda Steimer has seen nothing but requests for fans and window air conditioning units for the last two weeks.
"It's brutal out there just to look for a job, even if you're out there by 9 a.m.," Steimer said about many of her clients who travel door-to-door seeking employment. "To do that requires walking down (U.S. Highway) 190. It's just too hot and kind of sad."
Steimer said she refers many to the Salvation Army, the Senior Center or the library for solace.
Copperas Cove library director Margaret Handrow said that historically, libraries are places where many go to get out of the cold or, in this case, the unbearably hot weather. There were about 400 to 500 visitors in July alone.
Children and their families also have taken advantage of the air conditioning and entertainment provided by the Armed Services YMCA facilities.
"Believe it or not, we've had more coming in playing ball, sweating indoors," Director Doreen Vasseur said. "We've had a lot more kids coming in and cooling off playing the (Nintendo) Wii."
Ten other Copperas Cove residents spent Wednesday afternoon sweating indoors, following the moves of their line dance instructor at the Senior Center with ceiling fans at full-blast.
Resident and line dance student Paula John avoided the heat by going to water aerobics classes in Harker Heights for two weeks in July when her air conditioning unit went out – a problem Stephen Boynton, technician and owner of Air Conditioning Services in Kempner is familiar with.
"As the heat comes up, the systems are forced to work harder and they break more frequently, mostly because of a lack of maintenance," he said.
Boynton and another repairman go through six to eight service tickets each day during the summer to fix air conditioners in Killeen, Copperas Cove and Harker Heights. "You should get your unit checked every spring to avoid a lot of additional damage when it gets hot.," Boynton said.
To avoid damage to the body by heat stroke and exhaustion, the Texas Department of State Health Services reminds Texans to avoid caffeine and sugary drinks in favor of water to stay hydrated, wear sun block, take frequent breaks if working outside and simply stay indoors as much as possible.
Paul watched as another employee sprayed oil on Grimes Crossing Road to prepare for the next layer. His total 50 years of road and bridge work have helped to condition him against the sun, but he said he's still cautious to find the shade when he can.
"A lot of the trucks back then didn't even have air conditioning," he said. "I guess you just get used to it."
Contact Taylor Short at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7476. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcove.
Summer guidelines pointers from The Texas Department of Health
Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle during hot weather, even for a short time.
Drink plenty of fluids but avoid drinks with alcohol, caffeine or a lot of sugar. Start drinking fluids before going out into the heat.
Plan strenuous outdoor activity for early morning or evening when the temperature is lower.
Take frequent breaks when working outside.
Wear sun block, hats and light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.
Stay indoors in air conditioning as much as possible.
Eat more frequently, but be sure meals are well balanced and light.
Don't dress infants in heavy clothing or wrap them in blankets.
Check frequently on the elderly and those who are ill or may need help.
Check with a doctor about the effects of sun and heat when taking prescription drugs, especially diuretics or antihistamines.
At first signs of heat illness – dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps – move to a cooler place, rest a few minutes, then slowly drink a cool beverage. Seek medical attention immediately if conditions do not improve.