Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bats, space shuttles, and high school football

This picture (which I shamelessly "borrowed" from Elder Woolley's blog) says it all.  According to a Wichita Falls news channel, there have been a record-setting 46 consecutive days over 100 degrees this summer, with 72 total for 2011, nearing the record of 79 set in 1980.  Given the current forecast for Wichita Falls, that record should be broken next Sunday.  And the average summer temperature thus far is 91.7, well above the 88.5 record average set in 1980.

The biggest problem, of course, is the lack of rain.  There has been no rain in Wichita Falls for 52 days, still shy of the 75-day record set back in 1914.  The ongoing drought caused the USDA to issue a disaster declaration for 74 Oklahoma counties, and many cities, towns and rural water districts are issuing water rationing notices.

The drought has caused some unusual effects.  Over in Austin, Texas, the drought has killed many crops, in turn reducing the number of pests that bats love to eat.  So now there are 1.5 million bats living under a bridge in Austin who fly out for dinner earlier and earlier every evening, to the delight of the locals.
That means they have to leave home earlier than usual each night to find nourishment — giving the locals in this bat-crazy city a precious few more minutes to watch the normally-nocturnal critters fly before the sun goes down.
Each night they stream from under a bridge by the hundreds of thousands in a black cloud so large that it shows up on local weather radar.
"It's wonderful for people to be able to see them, and they are really spectacular," said James Eggers, director of education for the Austin-based Bat Conservation International. "But it's an indicator that things are a little tougher for the bats."
We hope the bats are doing ok, especially since 2011-2012 has been declared the Year of the Bat by the United Nations.

Another strange effect of the drought occurred when the waters of Lake Nacogdoches, 160 miles northeast of Houston, receded by some nine feet.  As the water receded, a four-foot diameter tank from the Columbia space shuttle, which disintegrated over Texas on its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere on February 1, 2003, was revealed.  The tank will be recovered and sent to Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building.

Not surprisingly, one thing about Texas that has not been affected very much by the heat is high school football.  The players need to be kept well-hydrated, and practice times have been adjusted to keep the boys off the field during the hottest parts of the day, but football must go on.
In Texas, high school football is nearly a religion, highlighted by a television drama series "Friday Night Lights" that follows the lives of a Texas high school football team and its entourage.
In the real thing, the key to survival in the heat is water, and plenty of it, according to veteran San Antonio high school athletic trainer Paul 'Doc' Rost.
"Basically right now we have hydration stations set out where a kid can go at any time and get a drink," Rost said. "I tell 'em, if you're thirsty when you get out here, you're dehydrated already."

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