Monday, August 1, 2011

Monster Heat Wave - Mandatory N. Tx Water Restrictions Coming

The National Weather Service has issued an Excessive Heat Warning for the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and all surrounding counties through Thursday.

The sweltering month of July has come to an end, but not before over 2,000 records were broken by high temperatures. The Huffington Post reports that some cities hadn't seen this kind of heat in 140 years.

Texas has experienced one of the worst droughts on record, the elderly and athletes alike continue to suffer from heat stroke, and large amounts of warmth and moisture were trapped under a "heat dome" that brought high temperatures and thick air to much of the U.S.

A huge and intense high aloft has plagued north Texas with triple digit heat for more than a month. Monday will be the 31st day in a row of 100+ heat at DFW. It's the second longest 100-or-better streak on record bettered only by 1980's 42 days. Dallas-Fort Worth temperatures are expected to hit 107 or 108 for the next three days, triggering an excessive heat warning that lasts at least through Thursday.

"These are the hottest temperatures we've seen so far this year," says John Blake, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service for Dallas-Fort Worth.

Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, reports there have been nine heat-related deaths this summer in Dallas County, up from five reported through last week. That equals the county's tally for all of last summer.

Forecasters expect the heat index to be even higher, around 110, and overnight temperatures will dip only into the mid-80s.

The drought also worsens daily: Lake Lavon has dropped 3 feet in the past month and is now losing almost a foot a week.

Lake Lewisville is down a foot in the past two weeks. Traffic advisory signs around the Metroplex now say "Extreme drought conditions...conserve water" as the drought becomes more serious with each scorching, rainless day that passes.

Cities served by the North Texas Municipal Water District will implement mandatory water restrictions in the upcoming weeks.

District officials met with member and customer city representatives on Friday to tell them that it would be moving to Stage 2 of its drought plan. Cities have until Aug. 19 to put the restrictions in place.

While every affected city's drought plan varies, the primary provisions include limiting irrigation to twice a week and prohibiting watering during the day.

The district serves Collin, Rockwall and Kaufman counties, as well as northeastern Dallas County, including Richardson, Garland and Mesquite.

"Our water deliveries continue to increase," says water district spokeswoman Denise Hickey. "We're seeing that increase in delivery due to those triple-digit temperatures over multiple days and the ongoing drought."

The goal of Stage 2 restrictions is to reduce water consumption by 5 percent. This is the first time since the 2005-07 drought that the water district has implemented mandatory restrictions.

The district set a single-day usage record of 554 million gallons on July 25. That surpassed the previous record of 537 million gallons set last August.

The drought is compounded by the presence of zebra mussels in Lake Texoma. As state, federal and district officials have sought to curtail the spread of the invasive species, they stopped pumping water from Texoma to Lavon Lake. That cut off nearly a quarter of the district's water supply.

According to The Washington Post, trends suggest that "man-made factors are almost certainly playing a role in the heat's intensity." The article cites scientists who blame the heat on urbanization and a higher concentration of greenhouse gas emissions.

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