A road-buckling heat wave spread across most of the...

By ALLAN R. BRUCE, United Press International  |  June 21, 1988
share with facebook
share with twitter

A road-buckling heat wave spread across most of the country Tuesday, turning swimming pools into saunas on the first day of summer and worsening the drought that parched the farm belt and crippled barge traffic on America's biggest inland waterway.

Residents using air conditioners to keep cool pushed power usage to record levels in Chicago and Indianapolis, one Nebraska town began rationing water and officials in Cleveland said their water pumping system was being pushed to its limit.

Record high temperatures were reached at 67 locations in 23 states, and every state in the continental United States reported temperatures above 90 degrees outside of northern New England.

The high of 112 degrees at Tucson, Ariz., was the hottest ever recorded since records began being kept at International Airport in 1941. Sioux Falls, S.D., reached 110, tying its all-time high.

The 108-degree reading at Sioux City, Iowa, was the warmest since July 1940 and highest in June. A reading of 101 in South Bend, Ind., tied a record for the month.

'I just hate summer,' said Debbie Barnhizer in South Bend. 'It's sticky, it's sweaty, it's dusty. It's just a very untidy season. I like it in January when everything is covered in snow and neat.'

Other records included: 109 in Huron, S.D.; 108 in Aberdeen, S.D.; 107 in Concordia, Kan., Grand Island and Lincoln, Neb.; 106 in Norfolk and North Platte, Neb.; and 105 in Valentine, Neb., and Bismark, N.D.

Milwaukee reached 94 degrees by 10:40 a.m. and later hit 100 for only the third time in 33 years. Baltimore's 102 degrees broke a record of 100 set in 1923. The temperature in New York soared to 97, tying the record set in 1953.

In Washington, D.C., it hit 98, tying a record set in 1933, and officials issued an air quality advisory, warning people with respiratory problems to curtail activities because of high ozone levels.

Chicago's 101 shattered the record of 95 degrees, but the weather service said the Great Lakes will receive some relief when a cold front reaches the area Wednesday night.

Only three farmers showed up to peddle their produce on opening day of a farmer's market on Chicago's West Side. 'It's too hot,' said farmer Steve Theiss, 30, of Yorkville. 'No use letting everything burn up.'

The Nebraska roads department said the heat caused scores of highways to buckle. Maintenance Manager Rollie Heedum said there were 133 buckling incidents reported, mostly in central and western Nebraska, and emergency crews were sent out to fix them.

The heat also made roads buckle around Chicago, the Illinois Transportation Department said. An intersection on Chicago's South Side had several spots crews were repairing. Road bucklings and heat-caused potholes also dotted roads in Kane County, Tinley Park, Palatine and Palos Heights.

Not even swimming pools offered relief Tuesday.

'It's at the point now where it's too much (heat),' said Terry Reger, parks and recreation aquatics director in Lincoln, Neb. 'The average person can't take that heat. With the water temperature in the low 80s and those high temperatures, it's not that refreshing' to be in a swimming pool.

But at Sioux Falls, S.D., Sioux River Water Slide manager Doug Lindner said 'business has really picked up, it's a big increase.'

'Without even checking our records, there's 50 percent more people,' Lindner said.

NWS spokesman Lyle Alexander said the heat wave was centered in the nation's midsection but was so intense that temperatures in the 90s and 100s were spreading to virtually all of the country.

'Ironically, one of the few areas of the nation that will keep relatively cool will be Florida,' Alexander said. He said said Florida's temperatures would stay mainly in the 80s and showers there would be widespread.

Officials said the biggest immediate problem faced by the corps was in Memphis, Tenn., where the Mississippi River was closed to barge traffic for several days for dredging operations.

Scattered storms crossed the Midwest, but agronomists complained that so little rain fell the storms would do nothing to alleviate the drought that has devastated so much of the nation's farmland.

A brief thunderstorm in Fort Wayne, Ind., early Tuesday caused one death. Ralph Ball, 31, was killed when his motorcycle hit a fallen tree on a street.

At least 37 people were slightly injured in the crash of a bus and a semi tractor-trailer rig on the fog-shrouded Indiana toll road in LaGrange County.

Three women were hospitalized Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, with apparent carbon monoxide poisoning attributed by police to temperatures that reached the mid-90s Monday. Police said the women turned on a car air conditioner to escape the heat and were found semiconscious Monday night with the ignition on and the gas tank empty.

In St. Louis, Latonya Laster, 4, was in critical condition Tuesday with injuries she suffered Monday in a heat-related car accident. Authorities said the driver of the car was blinded by a stream of water from a fire hydrant that residents opened to wet themselves down.

Utilities strained to meet the demand for power and water by millions of hot, thirsty customers.

Indianapolis Power & Light posted a new record for usage by its customers, with the utility registering more than 2.3 million kilowatts of electricity by Tuesday evening, utility officials said.

In Chicago, Commonwealth Edison broke the record for hourly peak electricity demand between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., supplying 16,049 megawatts, 'an awful lot more' than the peak expected, said spokeswoman Diane Kania. Edison was also selling power to neighboring utilities unable to meet the demand, she added.

In Cleveland, the city's water division pumped 451 million gallons Monday, the most this year. 'All our pumps are operating at near-maximum capacity. We're stretched to the limits of our mechanical capabilities,' said Deputy Water Commissioner Julius Ciaccia Jr.

Lexington, Neb., imposed water rationing on the community's 7,000 residents 'until further notice.' City wells were pumping but the water tower was only at 55 percent capacity, City Manager Bill Podraza said, adding that the city could run out of water 'in an extreme situation,' such as fire, he said.

Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich Tuesday night directed the state government to stop all unnecessary use of water and urged the public to conserve water voluntarily.

Thunderstorms Tuesday in Minnesota brought some rain but also lightning that struck and injured a plumber at Little Falls and hit three houses near Motley, sparking fires that destroyed all three.

Dry lightning sparked more than a half-dozen range and timber fires in western South Dakota Tuesday, including one blaze on the Montana border that consumed at least 5,000 acres.

Most of the fires were touched off by lightning, but the thunderstorms brought no rain to dampen the tinder-dry Black Hills. A fire that forced the evacuation of 20 homes and a motel just outside Rapid City was contained, but not before 100 acres and one residence were destroyed.

Tuesday's heat followed the last day of spring, when more than three dozen record highs were reached as temperatures soared above 100 across the northern and central Plains, the upper Mississippi Valley and the desert Southwest.

Trending Stories