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Heatwave affects crops, firefighter

Thunderstorms may lessen heat later in week

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Posted: June 9, 2008 7:13 p.m.
Updated: June 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Heatwave affects crops, firefighter

In this Herald file photo from 2007, corn is shown withering from heat and lack of rain.


It's barely a week into June and the temperatures are already soaring into triple digits. Sunday afternoon, the Sea Island Bank sign on East Main Street read 109 degrees.

            It's a bit unusual for the temperatures to be so high this early in the season, but a cold front moving in is expected to ease the suffering a little by midweek, and more by the weekend.

            Crops and gardens are suffering even more than humans. After spending time out in the county's agricultural regions, Bulloch County Extension Agent Pat Todd said he saw signs of heat stress in some area corn fields.

            "It's never good news when the first week of June gets this hot," he said. "I hate to see heat like that so early in the year."

            When field corn – the kind harvested for making animal feeds, corn meal, grits and other foodstuffs, not to mention ethanol – starts suffering from too much heat and not enough water, the leaves twist to conserve what moisture it has in the plant.

            Todd said he saw several fields in the county with corn that had begin twisting, but said corn in the northern end of the county has fared better in spite of the heat due to having had more rain last month.

            Sweet corn — the kind you eat off the cob — is hurting more now because of the lack of rain combined with heat, he said.

            The crop "came a little short, because it's got to have water," he said.

            However, young cotton, peanut and soybean plants are doing well at this point." They can hang" with a few more weeks of arid weather, Todd said.

            For farmers gathering wheat crops, the weather couldn't be better, he said. Many farmers are harvesting bumper crops of wheat, and  then burning the stubble in the fields, prompting a number of alarmed callers to dial 911.

            A 911 spokesman said last week several people called to report seeing great billowing clouds of black smoke, unaware the fires were controlled burns.

            But when it comes to other crops, especially vegetables grown commercially or in home gardens, "We need some rain bad," Todd said. Those using irrigation for crops are spending more money keeping the field watered, he said.

Heat affects humans, too

            While the heat is bad on crops, it affects people as well. Todd said the heat put a damper on activities at 4-H camp in North Georgia last week.

            Everyone should be aware of the heat dangers, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn.

            While only one 911 call has been due to heat illness so far, the rising temperatures can create a dangerous situation for people working or spending time outside or in a hot work environment, he said.

            The only emergency call that was heat-related this year was a Bulloch County firefighter who was overcome by the heat when responding to a car fire on Interstate 16, he said.

            People who work in a hot environment, inside or outside, should take frequent breaks, drink plenty of water, wear light weight and light colored clothing, and pay attention to the way they feel, he said.

            "Even if you aren't thirsty, you should drink plenty of fluids" he said.

            Alcoholic beverages and those with caffeine aren't the best choices, as they tend to dehydrate instead of hydrate, he said. Wynn also recommended "eating small meals more often, avoid high protein foods and don't take salt tablets unless directed by a physician."

            Staying indoors as much as possible is a good idea as well, he said.

            However, National Weather Service meteorologist John Jelsema from the Charleston bureau predicts cooler weather and possible rain for the rest of the week and weekend.

            "We're definitely into a summer-like pattern," he said of the early heat wave, "but it should be slightly cooler by the middle of the week, in the lower 90's."

            A "shot of cooler air" from a cold front moving in should bring the temps down to "the upper 80's by the weekend," he said.

            Beginning today, the rest of the week could see afternoon showers and possibly thunderstorms, "with the best chance (of rain) over the weekend," he said.

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