Excessive heat and extreme drought conditions have forced Fort Campbell to impose water use restrictions on base, and many local residents are wondering just how long it will be before similar restrictions are imposed citywide.
Unrelenting, record-breaking heat has baked Middle Tennessee and most of the South and Midwest since July, with daytime highs in the mid to upper 90s and often 100+. Heat indexes can add another 5-8 degrees to that even as humidity makes the air feel thicker than a hearty soup in winter. And it’s not over yet.
Forecasts indicate that starting Wednesday, the area is in for another three days of 100+ temps, dangerously high heat that to date has cost the lives of at least 49 people across South and Midwestern states. Overnight cool downs to the low 70s do little to abate the warmth, and usually by 10 a.m., the burn is back.
Indicators of the severity of this heat and prolonged include the closing of the Clarksville Farmer’s Market last week due to the lack of marketable produce. Organizers and vendors said the heat combined with the drought had killed the bulk of their crops. Dairy farmers and those with herds of beef cattle are hard pressed to find affordable feed for their livestock.
The drought is evidenced by low water tables and river levels, which has triggered an overabundance of some forms of algae, giving an “unpleasant stench and taste “to local tap water.
The heat island effect is created in many urban areas that are paved over, filled with heat absorbing concrete and steel, and without the naturally cooling effect of significant greenspace.
On May 11-12, 1997, NASA illustrated this effect using a specially outfitted Lear Jet to collect thermal data on metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia (pictured at left). Nicknamed “Hot-Lanta,” that city saw daytime air temperatures of only about 80 degrees Fahrenheit on those days, but some of its surface temperatures soared to 118 degrees Fahrenheit. In this image, blue shows cool temperatures and red shows warm temperatures. Pockets of especially hot temperatures appear in white. (Image/notes courtesy NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio.)
As for the local forecast, Intellicast.com offers the well-broiled middle Tennessee area a slight ray of hope: predicted highs in the upper 80s by Wednesday, August 29 — a week from now. Meanwhile, several local agencies have offered fans and air conditioners to families and the elderly, and “cooling stations” within supplies of bottled water and misting fans, are among the most popular attractions at many summer events.
For the remainder of this week, though, caution is advised for those who must work or travel in the heat. Wear cool, light-colored clothing, try to avoid being out in the hottest period of the day (from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), and stay hydrated. Drinks lots of water. Dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can happen quickly. If you suddenly start to feel ill, weak or have any unusual symptoms, seek an air conditioned space to cool down and drink plenty of non-caffeinated liquids. If symptoms persist, get medical attention. Heat stroke can kill.
As the region slowly works its way across the calendar toward fall and cooler temperatures, residents are reminded to keep eye on their neighbors, particularly the elderly and infirm, who may have difficulty coping with the heat. Pets need access to shade and constantly refreshed water. Children should not be left in cars at any time, but especially in this overwhelming heat, which can climb to 140 degrees inside a closed car in a matter of minutes.