Dreadful Heat, Humidity Invade South as Misery Continues

August 13, 2019 Updated: August 13, 2019

ATLANTA—Stifling heat smothered states from Texas to South Carolina on Aug. 13 with temperatures that felt like 120 degrees Fahrenheit, making it difficult to be outside for long, much less work or play.

As the entire Southeast baked amid heat warnings and advisories that reached from central Texas to coastal Georgia, construction workers toiled under a blazing sun in Louisiana. Alabama’s largest city opened its auditorium as a refuge for anyone needing to cool down.

Some schools and coaches limited football practice for players getting ready for the upcoming season, while social media was dotted with photos showing automobile thermometers with triple-digit readings.

The National Weather Service said the afternoon heat index climbed to 120 degrees in Clarksdale, Mississippi, nearly hitting the 121 degrees it felt like on Aug. 12. Readings were nearly as high in cities that included Dyersburg, Tennessee, and West Memphis, Arkansas.

The heat index is what the temperature actually feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature.

Forecasters said a cold front and storms could lead to a slight midweek cool down, but in the meantime, it’s just too hot.

In downtown Birmingham, Alabama, a piano-playing sidewalk evangelist sought refuge from the sun with two umbrellas—one over his head and the other on his sunny side.

Around the corner, artist Henry L. McShan sold his watercolor landscapes in a shady spot beside a park. Temperatures in Birmingham were already in the 90s in the morning on Aug. 13.

“I’m going to be here all day. I’ve got several bottles of water. I’m ready for it,” said McShan, his face glistening with sweat.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are prime threats during heat waves, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Kansas, a 2-year-old boy died after he was found alone in a parked car in the afternoon heat on Aug. 11. It appears heat played a role in the child’s death, Lawrence Police Chief Gregory Burns Jr. said in a statement Aug. 12. It was about 88 degrees, with a heat index of 96 in Lawrence at the time, the weather service said. An investigation is continuing.

In Texas, TXU Energy had asked its customers to dial back their thermostats between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Aug 13, due to the extreme heat. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees parts of the state’s power grid, said it set an all-time peak demand record on Aug. 12.

The Dallas Zoo had prepared for large crowds during $1 admission day even as forecasters predicted triple-digit temperatures. A Dallas Zoo dollar admission day in July drew more than 30,000 visitors, with temperatures in the 90s, zoo spokeswoman Chelsey Norris said.

Misting tents were set up throughout the zoo for visitors to cool down. Elephants will be soaked with water cannons and offered frozen treats, she said.

The heat alerts in place on Aug. 13 stretched as far east as the Upstate area of South Carolina.

In Spartanburg, South Carolina, the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills are practicing together Aug. 13 and Aug. 14 before a preseason NFL game in Charlotte, North Carolina. Over the weekend, Panthers coach Ron Rivera had some fun with Bills coach Sean McDermott, sending a screenshot of the heat index in Spartanburg. It showed 110 degrees along with an orange emoji face dripping with sweat.

“A psychological game,” Rivera joked of the scorching heat that awaited McDermott and the Bills this week.

By Jeff Martin and Jay Reeves.