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Another day in the oven

Monday came close to tying a heat record. Today could break one.

And yes, July was as hot as it seemed, once the numbers are added up.

So it’s no surprise your grass is brown, your leaves are already falling and you, too, feel like wilting.

For Jason Schneider, a mechanic at Value Auto Clinic in Kansas City, Monday brought 100-degree heat inside the shop and memories of heat waves from the 1980s.

“We fell out of being used to this kind of heat,” said Schneider, who said overheated cars and upcoming vacations were bringing in plenty of business.

That was Monday, when the official KCI high of 103 just missed the record of 104 for Aug. 1. The record for today’s date is 104, set in 1987, but we could end up that hot or hotter today.

According to National Weather Service statistics, July’s heat was as bad as it seemed.

July has an average of seven days of 95-plus weather, but last month had 16 such days. Each year normally has five days of 100 degrees — and we’ve already had that many.

An average August and September would bring about seven more days of at least 95-degree heat and one more day of 100, said Mike July of the weather service.

But the area may not have an average August or September.

“When we have a weather pattern like we’ve had in July, it very often carries over into the first half of August,” July said.

At least Kansas City hasn’t inched close to the record number of 95-degree days. In 1936, there were 66 of them.

Lower temperatures are headed our way later this week, although the word “relief” doesn’t exactly seem appropriate. On Wednesday, the high is forecast to be 94. The high Thursday and Friday will be in the low 90s. The normal high for this time of year is 89 degrees, July said.

High temperatures mean high water use. The Kansas City Water Department said the average is 115 million gallons per day. In the last week, water use has reached 182 million gallons.

A lot of that water is going into the ground, used by those who haven’t given up on a green summer lawn.

But some residents have given up, said Dennis Patton, a horticulture agent for Johnson County Extension.

“People are just so tired of the heat and now the dry weather, and there are a lot of people who have thrown in the towel,” he said.

Patton warned against trying to keep your lawn green by turning on a sprinkler system every night for 10 minutes. He suggested watering longer and only doing it once, or a maximum of twice, a week. Aim for 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water per week.

That type of watering helps promote a deeper root system, cooler soil and a healthier lawn, he said. It’s also more efficient and promotes water conservation.

Even if that sounds like too much work, don’t stop if you’ve already been watering this summer, he said. Stopping now probably would cause more significant damage than if the lawn had not been tended this summer.

“Don’t get your water bill, go into shock and turn the water off,” Patton said. “If you go cold turkey, you’ll shock it, stress it, and it’s more likely to die.”

Grass isn’t the only thing turning brown.

Evergreen trees and young leafy trees are also having a rough go. Evergreens, which are not native to this area and come from cooler, moister climates, are struggling, Patton said.

He recommended deeply soaking them every two to four weeks, no matter how old they are.

For other trees, don’t be alarmed by leaves falling. That’s just one of the tree’s defense mechanisms to heat — thinning its canopy so it loses less water.

But he’s seen a lot of younger trees beginning to die, and he suggested paying special attention to those planted in the last five years. Trees planted in the last year or two should be soaked about every week, and those 3 to 5 years old should be soaked about every two weeks.

Lawn tips

Water your grass longer and less often — a maximum of twice a week.

Deeply soak evergreens.

For other trees, water those planted in the past five years.

Heat relief

Residents seeking relief from the heat can call the city’s 3-1-1 Action Center to request transportation to one of the city’s cooling centers. Call the Action Center at 311 or 816-513-1313. People seeking cool shelter also can go to the city’s community centers.

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