From row crops to roadways, heat wave takes toll; In Ark., 105 degrees too hot to skin hogs

By Chuck Bartels, AP
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

From row crops to roadways, heat wave takes toll

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Temperatures topped 100 degrees in much of the nation again Wednesday, elevating the risk of health problems and wildfires — and in Arkansas, prompting a warning that it’s too hot to skin hogs.

Excessive heat warnings stretched from Georgia to Texas and Illinois to Nebraska.

In Arkansas, officials reported concrete had buckled and firefighters were busy with more than a dozen wildfires. They warned residents to take care to prevent more fires from starting.

“Even chains (under a vehicle) dragging on road can shoot out sparks which can ignite grasses on the roadway,” said Christina Fowler, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Forestry Commission.

The state’s Game and Fish Commission also recommended residents not skin wild hogs in the heat because of the greater risk of bacteria in meat.

“You just don’t want to (risk contamination) that would cause some kind of disease,” agency spokesman Keith Stephens said. The heat won’t help the stench from hog guts either, he noted.

At Roller Funeral Home in Jonesboro, where the temperature reached 104 degrees Wednesday afternoon, funeral director Kendell Snedeker said graveside services had been particularly trying.

“We offer (the mourners) cold, bottled water, and we do have tents for them to be under,” he said. “Sometimes we hand out fans and things of that nature.”

So far, no mourners had become ill from the heat, but Snedeker said he’d seen that happen in past years.

Temperatures reached 105 degrees in Oklahoma City, 102 in Dallas and Little Rock, 103 in Memphis, Tenn., and 101 in Shreveport, La.

The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture said soybean-eating bollworms have flourished because pesticide evaporates in the heat instead of getting under the bean plants’ canopy where the worms do their damage. Other pests, including armyworms and salt marsh caterpillars, also are causing plants to defoliate.

The heat itself tends to stunt crops such as soybeans and cotton, which struggle when the temperature rises above 86 degrees. Rice growers were still running their pumps when some would usually be close to draining their fields in preparation for harvest.

Farmers also had to take care that themselves didn’t become victims of the weather.

Heat tends to take a greater toll on people with health problems, including diabetics whose bodies can have a harder time cooling because of decreased circulation, health officials said. Two heat-related deaths were reported Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo.

“Even the healthiest person can’t function for long in heat over 100 degrees without regular rest in the shade to cool down, good hydration, and good nutrition,” Arkansas Health Department spokesman Ed Barham said.

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