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Compared with other Midwest cities, KC’s heat is no sweat

Yes, it’s hot, but it could be so much worse.

We could be living in Wichita, or Hutchinson, or Oklahoma City.

While Kansas City hit 100 for the first time this year on Tuesday, that’s not very impressive to residents of those cities.

As of Monday, Wichita was on day 24 of at least 100-degree heat.

The day before, Wichita hit 111 degrees, just one degree shy of being the hottest place in the country. That distinction went to Hutchinson, which hit 112. The wires in some traffic signals burned up.

If anything, Oklahoma has had an even worse summer.

“By August and September, we may have completely rewritten the record books,” said Kevin Kloesel, director of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

That’s not to diminish the misery in Kansas City and the rest of the Midwest.

A high-pressure system in the upper atmosphere has settled over much of the country, especially the Midwest, creating what meteorologists describe as a “heat dome.” The high pressure limits the potential for thunderstorms, which could cool everyone off.

Kansas City is days into a heat warning prompted by high humidity levels. Still, temperatures from Sunday through what is projected for Friday would not make the top 25 hottest six-day periods, said Mike July, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Wichita, however, is on pace for one of its hottest summer since records started being kept in the late 1800s, according to the weather service.

As of Monday, Wichita was just one day behind the record for total 100-degree days, set in 1980. The city was expected to hit at least 100 for the rest of the week. The average high temperature for June 1-July 18 was nearly 97 degrees. Again, it’s only second to the summer of 1980.

In Hutchinson, Kan., it’s been so hot that attendance is down by two-thirds at the city's two free spray parks, which have spray toys but no pools or staff, said Craig Morrison, assistant parks and facilities director. However, attendance is up at the city's Salt City Splash water park.

Oklahoma is battling extremely high heat, made worse by a winter and spring with low moisture. Some areas of the state are closing in on a year of drought, according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

While it’s not unusual for Oklahoma to be hot in the summer, this year’s high temperatures started earlier than normal. According to the survey, the high temperature for June averaged 104.1 degrees in some areas.

The lack of rain has played a significant role, too. From late May to late June, statewide average rainfall was 1.24 inches, making it the driest period in Oklahoma since 1921, according to data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, a network of environmental monitoring stations.

Sam Knipp, with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, said 80 percent of the state is in “deep, deep trouble,” and ranchers have started to sell their cattle.

Monte Tucker, 36, is one of them. The weather — “dryness compounded by heat” — has prompted him to sell 100 of his cows. He started with 300.

Tucker and his cattle can handle weather many would care to avoid —temperatures of 102, 103 degrees. But temperatures in Oklahoma are reaching 110 in some areas.

Grain farmers in Kansas have been hurt, too.

The dry heat has “pretty well cooked” much of the corn for Kent Winter, 56, who has been farming for about 28 years in northwest Sedgwick County, near Wichita. Winter, who also raises alfalfa and hay for feeding horses and cattle, said his production is about a fourth of what it is normally.

Winter said farmers his age look back to the summer of 1980 for comparison. In some ways, it’s worse this time around, he said.

“We went into this season with no subsoil moisture,” Winter said. “We’ve been on the dry side of things since early fall.”

Cities need water, too.

In Tulsa, high temperatures drove water use to a new record when it jumped 18 million gallons overnight. The city is encouraging residents to conserve water as much as possible.

The Wichita Parks and Recreation Department is using nearly four times the amount of water it normally does during the summer months.

“We’re not even trying to keep things lush,” said Doug Kupper, the department director. “We’re just trying to keep things alive.”

It’s the intense dryness that is pushing much of Oklahoma and Kansas heat into record-book status.

And that may be what’s spared the Kansas City area from the highest temperatures, the weather service said.

For April, May and June, our rainfall was 13 inches — almost exactly normal.

But as summer continues and more moisture is drawn out, the chance of hitting 100 degrees increases, said July with the weather service.

There may be some relief early next week in the Kansas City area. An excessive heat warning for the area is set to go through Saturday, and then some thunderstorms may draw temperatures down.

But the weather service doesn’t have the same good news for the dry areas of Kansas and Oklahoma.

For Tucker, a fourth-generation rancher, the summer is just miserable.

“I can’t remember being this dry, this hot, for this long,” Tucker said.

HOW HOT IS IT?



It’s so hot in some parts of Kansas and Oklahoma that:

A program in Oklahoma that helps elderly and low-income residents pay utility bills ended three days after its start. There had been $22 million in the budget.

In western Oklahoma, asphalt at a major intersection along U.S. 412 buckled.

A farm near Wichita lost 4,300 of 22,000 turkeys when temperatures hit 110, with a heat index of 118.

In June, an unusual weather pattern pushed Wichita temperatures from 85 to 102 degrees in 20 minutes.

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