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How to Beat the Heat
Current Weather Conditions
The drought and Johnson County
A request was made on July 20 by Governor Sam Brownback to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to declare Johnson County as a primary disaster area because of drought, extreme heat, high winds, and risk of wildfires.
The action involves 36 other Kansas counties, including the neighboring counties of Douglas, Miami, and Wyandotte.
If the 37 are approved, that would mean 103 of the state’s 105 counties are primary federal disaster areas. The two that are not, Marshall and Washington, border primary counties and would receive disaster declarations as contiguous counties.
The governor’s request reflects the recommendations of the Kansas State Emergency Board. County Farm Service Agency offices must report at least a 30 percent countywide production loss in a crop in order for a county to be recommended by the board for disaster declaration. If approved by USDA, these designated counties will be eligible for low-interest emergency loans administered by the Farm Service Agency.
Johnson County has approximately 114,000 acres in agricultural production, including wheat, corn, hay, sorghum, and soybeans. The average cropland production, mainly corn and soybeans, annually is estimated at $25 million.
The impact on crops, mainly corn and soybeans, lost thus far in the drought in Johnson County is estimated at approximately 70 percent, meaning more than $17.5 million in economic losses. The Farm Service Agency for Johnson County estimates that approximately 80 percent of the county’s corn crop is lost. Sixty percent of the soybean and sorghum crop is also gone.
It’s official: July sets a hot record
The July heat wave that wilted crops, shriveled rivers, and fueled wildfires officially went into the books on August 8 as the hottest single month on record for the continental United States.
The average temperature across the lower 48 states was 77.6 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.3 degrees above the 20th-century average, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration reported. That edged out the previous high mark, set in 1936, by two-tenths of a degree, according to NOAA.
In addition, the seven months of 2012 to date are the warmest of any year on record and were drier than average as well, NOAA said. U.S. forecasters started keeping records in 1895. Kansas, Nebraska, and Arkansas reported record dry conditions between May and July.
And the past 12 months have been the warmest of any such period on record, topping a mark set between July 2011 and this past June. Every U.S. state except Washington experienced warmer-than-average temperatures, NOAA reported.
Small, nonfarm businesses may qualify for disaster loans
The drought that continues to grip Kansas isn't only affecting farmers and livestock producers. Many nonfarm businesses have also been hurt.
According to the Kansas Department of Agriculture Department, small, nonfarm operations in 47 counties, including Johnson County, may qualify for low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. They’re intended to offset economic losses that can be directly linked to drought conditions since mid-July.
Qualifying operations may also include small agricultural cooperatives, some nonprofits, and a few others.
Emergency Water Sources
On July 25, Governor Sam Brownback issued an Executive Order and placed all Kansas counties in an emergency status, making some state fishing lakes and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) federal reservoirs available as an emergency water source for domestic, municipal, and livestock uses. The list of federal reservoirs available for withdrawals for emergency status in the Johnson County area includes Hillsdale and Pomona.
Individuals and communities first must contact the Kansas Water Office (KWO) with their water supply request. They will then be directed to the appropriate Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism or COE office to obtain the necessary permit to withdraw the water.
Permission is required before anyone can draw water from the selected lakes. If harmful algal blooms are present in water then access may be denied. The permit limits the types of water use and a fee may be set for use of the state fishing lakes' water supply and federal reservoirs. The Executive Order remains in effect until it is rescinded or superseded by a subsequent Executive Order revising the drought stage status of the affected counties.
For more information, please visit the KWO website at www.kwo.org
A burning ban for unincorporated Johnson County was issued July 2 and remains in effect. Until further notice:
- Property owners must prohibit burning on their land, except in a contained space with a spark-arresting device;
- All previously issued burning permits for the unincorporated area are suspended; and
- No new burning permits will be issued.
Burning bans also have been imposed by the cities of Olathe, Overland Park, Leawood, Merriam, Lenexa, Gardner, Shawnee, Spring Hill, De Soto, and Edgerton within their city limits.
Other cities in Johnson County have regulations against any open burning at any time within their city limits, requiring no issuing of a burning ban during periods of dry weather.
The burning bans do not restrict the use of barbecue grills, but caution is strongly encouraged when cooking outdoors.
Burning ban includes county parks
Since July 2, the Johnson County Park and Recreation District has implemented a fire ban for all of its parks and outdoor facilities.
The fire ban prohibits building, maintaining, attending, or using open fires except in permanent stoves and fireplaces provided by JCPRD in its developed recreation areas, or in portable barbecue grills placed on a concrete or asphalt surface.
Outdoor cooks are urged to use extreme caution and make sure a fire suppressant is at hand. All fires in approved grills and fireplaces must be extinguished completely before users leave the park.
All model rocketry and fire pit permits previously issued by JCPRD have also been suspended for the duration of the ban.
District parks affected by the restrictions include:
- • Antioch Park, 6501 Antioch, Merriam;
- • Ernie Miller Park, 909 N. K-7 Highway, Olathe;
- • Heritage Park, 16050 Pflumm Road, Olathe;
- • Kill Creek Park, 11670 Homestead Lane, Olathe;
- • Kill Creek Streamway Park with two access points in the De Soto and Olathe area;
- • Mill Creek Streamway Park with eight access points in Shawnee, Lenexa and Olathe;
- • Shawnee Mission Park, 7900 Renner Road, Shawnee and Lenexa;
- • Stanley Nature Park, 6295 W. 159th Street, Stilwell;
- • Sunflower Nature Park, 103rd Street and Edgerton Road, De Soto;
- • Thomas S. Stoll Memorial Park, 12500 W. 119th Street, Overland Park; and,
- • Cedar Creek Boat Ramp, 8265 S. Gardner Road, Olathe.
For more information, call (913) 438-7275.
Three Johnson County lakes are now on the alert list by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) for having cyanobacteria, commonly called blue-green algae.
On August 10, the state issued a warning for blue-green algae in the lake at Antioch Park, 6501 Antioch Road, Merriam. A similar warning remains in effect at South Lake Park, 7601 West 86th Street, Overland Park.
The KDHE has placed the lake at the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, 13800 Switzer Road, Overland Park, under an advisory alert. When harmful algal blooms are present, KDHE, in cooperation with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT) and other lake managers where appropriate, responds by informing the public of these conditions.
A warning means high levels of toxic blue-green algae have been detected in the lake water and indicates that water conditions are unsafe and direct water contact (wading, skiing, and swimming) is prohibited.
An advisory means harmful blue-green algae have been detected and a hazardous condition exists. Water activities like boating and fishing may be safe; however, direct contact with water (i.e., wading, swimming) is strongly discouraged for people, pets, and livestock.
Other precautions include:
- • Humans, pets, and livestock do not drink untreated lake water;
- • It is safe to eat fish caught during a harmful blue-green algae outbreak as long as consumers clean and rinse the fish with clean, potable water; consume only the fillet portion; and discard all other parts. People should also wash their hands with clean, potable water after handling fish taken from an affected lake;
- • Do not eat or allow pets to eat dried algae;
- • If lake water comes in contact with skin or pet fur, wash with clean potable water as soon as possible; and,
- • Avoid areas of visible algae accumulation.
KDWPT reminds visitors that when a lake is under a public health advisory or warning, marinas, lakeside businesses, and park camping facilities remain open for business, although swim beaches will be closed. Park drinking water and showers are safe and not affected by the algae bloom.
KDHE will continue to monitor these public waters and will issue updates as conditions warrant.
Water Usage: WaterOne
WaterOne, with offices in Lenexa, serves more than 400,000 residents in 16 cities in Johnson County. Its service district includes Bonner Springs, Fairway, Leawood, Lenexa, Merriam, Mission, Mission Hills, Overland Park, Prairie Village, Roeland Park, Shawnee, Spring Hill, Westwood, Westwood Hills, and parts of Olathe and De Soto along with a section of northern Miami County.
WaterOne has placed no restriction on water consumption from its customers, but has encouraged voluntary cooperation from some of them with their outdoor watering habits in two general areas.
One area involves portions of Leawood, Overland Park, and Prairie Village where customers have been asked to adjust their outdoor watering schedule to Tuesday, Thursday, and a weekend day.
The other area affects customers in the southeast corner of Johnson County, including the Stilwell area, and northern Miami County where customers have been requested to avoid outdoor watering between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.
More information and updates are available at http://www.waterone.org/faqs.htm.
Water Usage: Olathe
Olathe is located in Kansas Water Assurance District 1, which covers the Kansas River Basin. The city is asking residents to observe voluntary water conservation measures by limiting all non-essential outdoor water uses, including:
- Voluntarily implementing an alternate day (odd/even) schedule for outdoor watering;
- Limiting non-essential outdoor water use and implement Wise Outdoor Watering practices;
- Watering outdoors between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.;
- Limiting or eliminate outdoor water use on the weekends;
- Using a soaker hose to water plants more efficiently;
- Limiting car washing at home or use commercial car wash that recycles water; and,
- Avoiding hosing down outside areas, such as sidewalks, patios and driveways.
Residents can also help reduce indoor water use by shortening showers, only washing full loads of dishes and clothes, shutting off the faucet while brushing teeth, and repairing leaky toilets and faucets.
Water Usage: Gardner/Edgerton
The Kansas Water Office has placed all users of Hillsdale Reservoir in a “Water Watch.” The watch includes residents in the cities of Gardner and Edgerton.
In a water watch, residents are asked to take the following voluntary measures:
- Watering lawns on alternating days, with even addresses on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and odd addresses on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and no watering on Sunday;
- Limit filling swimming pools;
- Limit washing vehicles;
- Wash full loads of laundry rather than partial loads;
- Take shorter showers if possible;
- Don't let faucets run; and,
- Have leaking faucets or toilet fixtures repaired as soon as possible.
There are suggested practices on Gardner’s webpage under the Water Division of Public Works.
Water Usage: De Soto
De Soto does not have any water restrictions at this time, but encourages residents to observe voluntary water conservation measures.
As the summer temperatures have blaze, so have the local ozone levels. The Kansas City area has already had at least 15 readings over the EPA-set health standard. Usually, the ozone concentrations are highest in July and August. The ozone season traditionally ends October 31.
So, this is a reminder that high ozone levels can cause serious respiratory problems to everyone, but especially the young, elderly, those who work or play outdoors, and those with existing respiratory conditions. Listen and watch for red and orange Ozone Alerts (when the levels are expected to be the highest) on television, radio, and the digital displays on the highways (KC Scout).
Also, make every effort to follow any and all of these free ozone reduction activities listed below. All your actions are important, and they DO make a difference.
- Reduce driving and consolidate trips;
- Delay lawn mowing and vehicle refueling until as late in the day as possible;
- Don’t “top off” your tank when refueling;
- Bring your lunch rather than drive to a restaurant; and,
- Carpool, bike, walk, or take the bus to work or for errands.
The SkyCast is the ozone forecast for the Kansas City region, including Johnson County. Like a weather forecast, it indicates what conditions are most likely in the next 24 hours. The SkyCast level is issued by the MidAmerica Regional Council each afternoon by 3 p.m. for the next day.
The current level is can be found at: http://www.marc.org/Environment/airQ/add_skycast.htm.
Where to go to cool off: Cooling Centers
The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, in cooperation with the Johnson County Library, also encourages citizens who need a place to cool down during hot days to visit one of 13 library branches in 12 cities, which are available during normal business hours.
Library hours vary by location. Residents can dial (913) 826-4600 to check hours of operation for their nearest library branch, or visit the library website: www.jocolibrary.org.
The two Olathe Library facilities also serve as cooling places. Other sites in Johnson County include YMCA centers in Overland Park, Olathe, Lenexa, and Prairie Village along with the Olathe Salvation Army facility.
Your city may have a community center or other building designated as a cooling spot. Call your city hall in your area to find location and times.
What about lawns, flowers, and trees?
The Johnson County Office of Kansas State Research and Extension offers an Extension Master Gardener Hotline to help residents solve their growing concerns about their lawns, plants, and trees in good weather and scorchers.
The hotline is available year-round by phone, email, or dropping by at the office 11811 South Sunset Drive, Olathe. The office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- Hotline Phone: (913) 715-7050
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What about home foundations?
Ground shrinks quickly in a drought. That often creates a between the foundation of your home and the soil. That situation can cause problems.
There are tell-tale signs that your foundation may be in jeopardy. For starters, the dirt around your house will start pulling away from the concrete of the foundation. And there are obvious signs when the foundation is in bad shape, cracks inside and outside of your home, which may lead to costly repairs.
The key to protecting your home is moisture. Experts recommend using a soaker hose. Lay it all around the base of your home, about 20 inches from the wall, and allow it to run every 30 days for about 30 minutes. This will create consistent moisture content to protect your home during prolonged dry spells.
What about pets?
Anyone with pets should be especially mindful of their care in hot temperatures. There are precautions that pet owners can take to make their dogs more comfortable, even if the animals need to go outside for walks, including:
- If you’re going to walk your pet, do leash walking;
- Don’t let them run a lot. Take short walks in extreme heat as they can overheat pretty quickly because of their fur.
- Pets should be walked in the early mornings or late evenings after the sun goes down, especially when temperatures are escalating near 100 degrees, or higher.
- Pet owners also need to watch for animals that show excessive panting, acting a little bit lethargic, and possibly vomiting.
- Pets should be given extra water throughout the day and always make sure that water is always available to them.
- Certain types of pets also are more susceptible to the heat than others. Usually larger dogs with darker fur seem to be more susceptible. That’s not to say that light-haired dogs don’t overheat though.
What about crops and livestock?
Kansas farmers are taking the brunt of the weather, which is taking its toll on both crops and livestock.
Kansas State Research an Extension provides useful information and drought updates about crops and livestock locally and across the state at: http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/drought. It has a lot of links related to agriculture, humans, and landscapes.
What people can do
The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment department recommends slowing down from a normal pace, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding carbonated beverages. Drawing shades or blinds and staying in air-conditioned environments, even for short periods of time, will also help.
For those who must be outdoors, wearing sunglasses, proper SPF sunscreen, and loose-fitting, light colored clothing can mitigate some of the damage.
Health officials say that animals, young children, and the elderly tend to be the most susceptible to severe heat.
Other helpful advice includes:
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
More information ...
And, finally, extremely hot weather brings other ill effects, too.
According to FBI crime statistics, as temperatures rise, so too does an increase in violent acts with more crimes reported in July and August, typically the hottest months of the year, than any other period.
It’s called heat aggravation. It’s hot outside. It’s humid, and it doesn’t take much to push people over the edge. When it gets hot, people tend to lose their tempers a little bit more quickly.
All in all, rising temperatures and rising tempers seem to go hand in hand, so please keep a cool head even if you’re hot under the collar from thermostat readings.
Finally, a heat wave may provide the opportunity for some experimenters to find the answer to a timeless question that generations often have tested: Can it get hot enough to fry an egg on a street or sidewalk?
According to the Library of Congress, the answer is: no.
An egg needs a temperature of 158 degrees to become firm. You’re not going to find that type of heat on a sidewalk. Here’s a hint: You might, however, be able to fry an egg on the hood of a car since metal conducts heat better than concrete. A black car hood would work best.
But even if it’s not hot enough to fry an egg, the objective to all ages is the same: stay cool.