Heat that can make you faint

People cooling off in the water park area of Klyde Warren Park in Dallas. — ©️2023 The New York Times Company

KEVIN Randal, a construction worker in Houston, Texas, has his routine.

The 60-year-old, who works on air conditioning, roofing, flooring and kitchens, spent Saturday inside an attic, drenched in sweat in 38°C temperatures, fixing an air conditioning unit.

He takes breaks every 20 minutes, drinks a mix of lime juice, salt and water to keep him hydrated and takes little sips of water to prevent nausea and throwing up, he said. “If you don’t calculate time correctly, you will faint,” Randal said.

But for now, the heat is mostly coming and staying.

An onslaught of record heat that shows no sign of easing has united all strata of society with the same fundamental purpose of staying cool, comfortable and safe, while putting particular strains on the poor and those without air conditioning.

And the soaring temperatures are highlighting the risks to Texas, its power grid and its residents as the state and globe continue to warm over time.

In Hutto, a rapidly growing suburb 45km north of Austin, paramedics Liz Garner and Jona Becerra find themselves rushing to an increasing number of heat emergencies from their headquarters at Fire Station No. 1.

On one recent day, Garner rescued a construction worker in his 20s who had suffered a heatstroke, hurriedly placing him in an ice bath to lower his body temperature after it had climbed to 40°C. The heat index that day was 41°C.

(Left) Angelica Lopez preparing a snow cone for a customer; people passing their time in the shade. — ©️2023 The New York Times Company(Left) Angelica Lopez preparing a snow cone for a customer; people passing their time in the shade. — ©️2023 The New York Times Company

In Houston, residents in the city’s large immigrant community described a broad range of challenges as temperatures began to climb past 38°C amid debilitating humidity.“I have to take it slow so my heart rate doesn’t rise,” said Sandra Tobar, who has worked in landscaping for over 20 years since coming to the United States from El Salvador. She starts working at 6.45am and typically doesn’t finish until 6pm.

“We eat every day so we have to work every day,” said Tobar, who is in her 50s. “If we don’t work, then we don’t have food.”

Advisories from the National Weather Service have hardly pulled punches in forecasting what’s ahead for Texans and residents of surrounding states in coming days, releasing advisories such as “dangerous heat continues” and “excessive heat warning” with projected heat indexes of up to 48°C.

Cities throughout Texas have opened cooling stations in libraries and other public buildings, many of which have served as shelters for homeless residents. Relief agencies have also accelerated their service.

In San Antonio, Pete Barrera, outreach coordinator for Haven for Hope, which works with people who are homeless, drove through the city’s downtown streets recently in a pickup truck loaded with everything from cold water and snacks to food and clothing.

People passing their time in the shade. — ©️2023 The New York Times CompanyPeople passing their time in the shade. — ©️2023 The New York Times Company

“People are hungry,” he said from his cellphone as he made the rounds. “They’re human beings and they need you. If I can help them, I’m going to help them.”

People have generally adhered to the advice to drink plenty of water, limit outdoor activities, work early or late in the day and wear plenty of sunscreen.

On Austin’s downtown row of nightclubs on Sixth Street, the temperature 37°C at 7.45 on a Saturday night, but foot traffic was nevertheless respectably brisk, and compared with the daytime highs, some patrons regarded the latest reading as a welcome cooling off.

Many wore shorts and T-shirts, and several said they were following officials’ advice to stay hydrated, though perhaps with a bit of an adjustment.

As Angelica Nunez, a real estate agent in Austin, entered a nightclub and restaurant with her husband, Joseph Nunez, she said they were “drinking a lot of water.” She added, “And beer, too.” — ©️2023 The New York Times Company

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