Thermometer tops 100 four straight days

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 12, 2008

FRANKLIN—Officially, the mercury reached 102 degrees each afternoon on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, but other individual readings may have been higher.

Numbers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration taken from the Franklin Municipal Airport belie what personal thermometers have been telling folks these last few days. Bank thermometers routinely displayed readings of 104. One such thermometer actually topped 111 degrees before cooling in a hurry to a comparative chilly 108 degrees at about 4:30 p.m. on Monday.

The 102 degrees would have set records in Wakefield on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, according to NOAA, which does not track historical records at the Franklin Airport.

According to, a high-pressure system twirled warm humid air from the south, a pattern that was expected to break Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, dropping high temperatures into more normal ranges in the upper-80s. But until then, the pattern brought triple-digit high temperatures and altered the outdoor plans for many.

And, in one case, the heat sent middle school students home early.

Students at Southampton Middle School were released at 1 p.m. Tuesday as a precautionary measure, according to Dr. Wayne Smith, director of administration and middle school instruction for Southampton public schools.

Smith said that one of the chillers at the school had broken down. Though the school remained cool Tuesday morning, he said, students were sent home early in case there were problems with the other cooling units.

Smith said students were expected back in school on their regular schedule on


For some, however, once the workweek started, there was no chance to alter plans. Sometimes, the work goes on regardless of the weather. Here are a few examples.

Garbage cooks in the hot sun

At Southampton County’s 16 refuse collection sites, there isn’t much shade to be found. Residents delivering their trash do so right out in the open, and the garbage bakes in the hot sun all day long.

For workers, though, there is respite to be found in the small wooden shacks located at each of the sites. Just large enough for a small desk, a couple of chairs and a television stand or bookshelf, the huts have one important feature: a small air-conditioner located in the wall of each building.

At the Southampton Meadows site on Tuesday, Johnnie Barnes and Charles Bynum both sat within a foot or two of the cool air blowing from the air-conditioner. As they saw vehicles entering the site, one would open the door, check for a county decal, wave the driver through and quickly close the door again.

&uot;We’re not able to spend the time outside that we’d like&uot; during heat waves like the recent one, Barnes said.

Garbage, of course, creates another heat-related problem: odor. Barnes and Bynum, who work separate shifts at the refuse site but travel together to save on gas, said they’ve been encouraging people &uot;to do something else&uot; with their food waste during the heat wave.

Residents, Barnes said, can dig holes to bury that waste, or they can feed it to their animals.

Riverdale Road residents Tim Young and Barry Jacobs arrived Tuesday morning with a pickup truck load of garbage that smelled as if it was already cooking. They wasted little time unloading it with a shovel and a rake.

Young joked that he’d like the temperature to warm up a little. His companion, shirt soaked with sweat, didn’t laugh.

Asked how they deal with the heat while working outside, the men said they rely on &uot;a cold cooler full of water and Gatorade.&uot;

Young, who does some landscaping work, added, &uot;It’s a job; you just go out and do it.&uot;

R.E. Spears III/Staff Writer

For firemen, an added burden

FRANKLIN—The heat is always on for a firefighter.

But when the thick, humid air of summer reaches its most sweltering temperatures, precautions must be taken to protect first responders.

According to Senior Firefighter Mike Mavredes of Franklin Fire & Rescue, when the crews are not on call, they still have daily duties to perform at the station.

Each unit has to be inspected, with equipment checks performed. In addition, the station has to be cleaned inside and out.

&uot;We try to knock it out as early as possible,&uot; he said.

Mavredes noted that even at the station, the members are aware of staying hydrated.

On calls, crews don’t hesitate to call sister stations for more assistance during stifling heat waves so that frequent rotations can be utilized.

Mavredes said it only takes 15 to 20 minutes of firefighting to exhaust a responder who is in good physical condition.

&uot;We keep a check on them,&uot; he said. &uot;A firefighter can sweat out a whole lot of water weight, especially one in turnout gear.&uot; Along with an air pack, Mavredes said the equipment adds about 40 pounds to the firefighter.

&uot;(Turnout gear) is designed to keep high heat out,&uot; he said. &uot;But it becomes an insulator, and the firefighter can’t get rid of the heat that has built up.

&uot;Exhaustion and physical stress can lead to a heart attack, which is the No. 1 cause of death for firefighters,&uot; he said.

Mavredes also said the physical threat is not limited to older members of the department, and those 20 and 30 years old in great physical shape could still fall victim to the heat.

&uot;Firefighting is one of the most strenuous activities you can do,&uot; he said, noting that a typical structure fire can be anywhere from 500 to 1,200 degrees.

&uot;In this heat, there is no chance for rehab until you can get (a person) into some air-conditioning and get them some fluids,&uot; he said.

While as of Tuesday morning, Franklin crews hadn’t had any calls for brush or structure fires during the recent upshot in temperatures, &uot;adequate&uot; amounts of

water and Gatorade have been on hand in case.

Wendy Walker/Staff Writer

At nursery, protecting plants

FRANKLIN-—Employees at Franklin Lawn and Garden Center have not only had to struggle to beat the heat over the past week, but to keep their plants healthy and their business going.

Owner Justin Overby said the garden center has been using double irrigation, hand watering and &uot;lots and lots of water&uot; to keep the plants healthy.

Employees have been drinking water to stay cool and have tried to keep customers happy—in the air-conditioning—by physically bringing plants into the store to show customers.

All of the extra effort means that the staff of Franklin Lawn and Garden Center has been working &uot;a lot slower than normal,&uot; said Overby.

Business has also been slowing down over the past week. The heat wave, like the drought in September, has caused sales to slump because people are unable to work in their yards, Overby said.

&uot;It’s going to hurt business if it doesn’t hurry up and get cool and rain,&uot; he said.

Overby expects the business and work load to return to normal once the heat wave passes.

Rachel Glover/Staff Writer

At the garage, forget the AC

FRANKLIN—The thermometer situated in a direct angle of the blistering sunlight in front of the Bronco Federal Credit Union just up the block flashed 111 degrees on Monday, but the actual temperature was a good seven degrees cooler than that.

No matter. It was still hot. Very hot for the guys working at Bubba’s Place.

And there was little relief.

&uot;We’ve got a lot of fans blowing, and cold water in the back,&uot; said Bubba Carr, owner and operator of the Mechanic Street business.

When it gets hot, there’s not much to do about it at a garage. The bay doors are open all day, people come in and out of the office and there’s gas to pump.

Even if the place was air-conditioned, it wouldn’t do much good with all that coming and going through the open doors.

Plus, Bubba said: &uot;That AC will ruin you. Next thing you know you’re getting sick&uot; from going from severe heat to room temperature.

&uot;We’ve got four or five fans blowing,&uot; he said, &uot;and a cooler full of water. About the only thing we can do is to be sure to stay hydrated. We also try to not put an extra load on the boys.&uot;

And another attempt to beat the heat: If both bays are occupied and a third car is in need of repair, that work can be done in the shade rather the direct light.

Even so, don’t expect the place to get central air-conditioning.

&uot;See that heater in the wall?,&uot; Bubba asks, pointing to a small recessed rectangular unit. &uot;That’s my heat in the winter. In the [winter] mornings, there are a lot of older gentlemen who come by&uot; to sit and chat and catch up on the day’s news. It gets so crowded on some of those winter mornings that &uot;I can barely get to the cash register: in the corner of the office.

&uot;So, I’m not about to put A/C in here,&uot; he said, imagining the crowd that would be attracted on hot days like the ones we’ve been having.

As far as dealing with the searing heat of the last few days goes, &uot;there’s not really much you can do about it,&uot; he said.

Paul McFarlane/Editor