HEAT takes toll on state

Friday, August 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A heat wave that has gripped the state since July 4, leading to crop damage and nine deaths, shows no signs of letting up, weather forecasters say.

A dome of high pressure over the Southern Plains has been causing temperatures in excess of 100 degrees and has prevented significant rainfall.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmenal Quality issued an ozone alert for the Tulsa metropolitan area for Friday. DEQ officials urged motorists to carpool or use public transportation; to put gasoline in vehicles in the evening and to avoid using gas-powered lawn mowers and weed trimmers.

The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments issued a similar alert for central Oklahoma for Friday also.

High temperatures on Thursday ranged from 90 degrees at Ketchum Ranch in south-central Oklahoma to 104 degrees in Hollis. Tulsa's high reached 100 degrees and the high in Oklahoma City reached 98 degrees.

The current 10-day forecast shows no relief in sight and the hot weather could hover over the state for the next two to eight weeks, said Howard Johnson, associate state climatologist for the Oklahoma Climatological Survey in Norman.

``The numerical models in which the forecasts are based usually are not very good at showing when these high pressure systems are going to break down,'' he said.

A total of nine people have died of heat-related causes since early July, Kevin Rowland, chief investigator for the state medical examiner's office said Thursday.

The dry, hot weather combined with damage from last winter's ice storms, have made for a sparse hay crop this summer.

``We're hearing it statewide that the hay crop is a fraction of what it was last year,'' said Jack Carson, state Agriculture Department spokesman.

Carson said the middle and western counties seem to be the hardest hit, but the northeast and north-central areas also are suffering.

One farmer told Carson that a field that produced 826 bales of hay last year yielded 238 this year.

College football training is getting under way in Oklahoma, and trainers are being vigilant to make sure players do no suffer ill effects from the heat.

In Minnesota, Pro Bowl tackle Korey Stringer died Wednesday of heat stroke, a day after collapsing at the Vikings' training camp.

Scott Anderson, head athletic trainer at the University of Oklahoma, said the players work out in the morning and late in the afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day. The players are given frequent water breaks, are watched closely for fatigue and are weighed before and after every practice.

``It's not uncommon to have people with varying levels of heat stress,'' he said.