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Heat wave fuels 'crazy heat, even for Mississippi' and power demand record in Texas  1 Week ago

Source:   USA Today  

A heat wave gripping much of the South and Midwest on Tuesday showed little sign of easing after fueling record demand for energy in Texas and pushing the heat index above 120 degrees in at least one Mississippi town.

ERCOT, which manages 90% of the Texas electric load, said it set a new all-time peak demand record Monday between 4 and 5 p.m. That eclipsed a record dating all the way back to Sunday as the unrelenting heat wave blasted the region. Another record was possible Tuesday.

"High temperatures have resulted in record electricity demand over the last few days and may result in a new record today," ERCOT CEO Bill Magness said Tuesday afternoon. He urged customers to ease power use later in the day and early in the evening.

Parts of 13 states were under heat advisories, from Texas, Louisiana and Florida in the South to Missouri and Illinois in the Midwest, the National Weather Service reported. In Nashville, heat index values reached 107 degrees early Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service warned. And it was getting hotter.

Clarksdale, Mississippi, is used to the heat, but 121 degrees Monday was a little much for the historic Delta town – the birthplace of Sam Cooke that boasts of live Blues 365 nights a year.

"This is crazy heat, even for Mississippi" said Stephanie Davis, 47, the mayor's secretary and a lifetime resident. "I don't ever remember it being worse. The humidity is so high, and it is hot so early."

The city of 15,000 has opened cooling centers in the library – "You don't have to be a patron, just go on in" – and elsewhere. The city was seeing a bit of relief Tuesday, but a heat advisory remained in effect.

"The churches, some of the younger people, they are checking on the elderly," Davis said. "They might have air conditioning but they don't use it, they don't want their (power) bill to be extreme."

The thermometer hit 100 degrees in Atlanta. Cooling stations were open in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Memphis, Tennessee; and Little Rock, Arkansas, among other locations. In Shreveport, Louisiana, residents were warned that heat index values would far exceed 100 degrees.

"Take precautions to keep cool if you have to be outdoors during peak heating hours as heat stroke can be deadly," the National Weather Service office in Shreveport warned. "Citizens should drink plenty of water and wear light weight and loose fitting clothing."

In northern Alabama, forecasters with the weather service's Huntsville office said Monday they issued the first "excessive heat warning" for the area in more than seven years. The warning is more serious than a heat advisory.

The Union of Concerned Scientists warns such heat could soon become the norm. Last month the group published a report "Killer Heat in the United States," along with a companion study in the journal "Environmental Research Communications."

Both use the heat index – the measure of how hot it feels when air temperatures are combined with the amount of moisture in the air – to project the impact of rapid increases in extreme heat nationwide if industrialized nations don’t act quickly to reduce heat-trapping emissions.

The report urges "bold action to dramatically reduce heat-trapping emissions" and limit the intensity and frequency of extreme heat. The actions include, among other things, transitioning to low-carbon energy sources, improving energy efficiency and investing in land use and forest management practices that help store carbon in soils, trees and vegetation.

"The United States is facing a potentially staggering expansion of dangerous heat over the coming decades," the report says. "This analysis shows the rapid, widespread increases in extreme heat that are projected to occur across the country due to climate change."

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