top of page

From the buzzards perspective...

Random articles that are created as I travel, experience new things, meet new people and discover new insights.

  • Writer's pictureEddy Weiss

My chickens are laying fried eggs.

Well, here comes some science for ya’ll.

I was listening to the radio yesterday when the weather report came on and the weatherman was interacting with the show’s host.

“Why are we experiencing such high temperatures right now?” asked the host.

“Because it’s Texas”, replied the weatherman.

Some of that was true. Texas is normally a warmer place, but lately, the combination of tropical-level humidity with triple-digit high temperatures is making for some very real and dangerous extreme heat events and it is still only June!

They say that southern women don't sweat...they "glisten". Well, yesterday I saw a woman in the Walmart parking lot that was glistening through her clothes.

It is HOT!

On average, extreme heat is the biggest annual weather-related killer in the U.S. Down here in the Lone Star State we are on our third week of high temperatures with no end in sight and the risks are going up. This week heat indices have been reaching upwards of 120°F across parts of the Lone Star state and the high temperatures are endangering lives.

Someone asked me the other day how the National Weather Service determines the difference between actual temperature and heat index. It is a simple formula that I was able to figure out shortly after moving to Texas. I explained that they take two thermometers and hang one outside on a pole. That thermometer will give you the ACTUAL temperature. They then take a second thermometer and drop it down the jeans of a man standing next to the pole in the sun. That thermometer will give you the “feels like” temperature (or, heat index).

High humid heat has enveloped the vast majority of the Lone Star State, along with parts of Oklahoma and Louisiana, for the past week. It is forecast to continue into the weekend and may even intensify next week. The heat wave in Texas and surrounding states has prompted the NWS to issue heat warnings and advisories for more than 40 million people at a time.

The air is thick.

San Angelo, Texas broke its all-time record high of 111°F, reaching 114°F just two days ago (one day before the first day of summer!)

Temperatures at locations near the Mexican border have been running higher because of drier air there. This will again become another blog post as we discuss more challenges at the border so, stay tuned!

Del Rio hit an all-time record high of 113°F on Tuesday, and Zapata has seen its hottest 2-day stretch on record. Two days ago the thermometer INSIDE the jeans showed 127°F in Kingsville, Texas.

Now, why would I spend all this space to discuss Texas weather when so many of my readers live elsewhere?


No, not really. It’s all good. I am actually writing this because there is another weather season upon us that you all have a stake in. Response Season.

With tornadoes and windstorms knocking out power and creating deployment opportunities, it has already been on some of your minds. With a storm already in the Atlantic, we all know we are about to see hurricanes soon. The problem is that Response Season brings with it long periods of time outdoors without the ability to simply go inside or jump in the pool.

Occupationally, many of us are about to begin risking health and mind in high heat and humidity. Response Season is a vicious time and does not discriminate between the experienced and the young. If you are not going in with eyes wide open and a significant amount of awareness, Response Season could end your career or kill you.

I want to encourage all of you to consider adaptation policies that can benefit human health as we consider how heat exposure impacts physical and mental health. If you do not have them in place, it is already past time to create policies that can ensure equitable access to “cooling centers,” and tips for staying safe when temperatures reach dangerous highs.

Whether you are the Director of an agency sending people into the field for disaster response or you are the leader of a volunteer group heading to last night’s tornado-impacted community, this really needs to be on your mind.

Hot days can lead people to suffer from dehydration, heat exhaustion, and in extreme cases, heat stroke. But hot days are also associated with higher risk of a number of other conditions that are not typically thought to be “heat-related,” such as [kidney] problems, diabetes, skin infections, and preterm birth among pregnant women. In fact, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and dehydration account for a relatively small fraction of the total health risks associated with days of extreme heat. And interestingly, it’s not just extreme heat that poses a risk. Even moderately hot days can place vulnerable individuals at higher risk, especially when they are performing the duties of a disaster responder.

A growing body of evidence suggests that days of high temperatures may negatively affect our mental health. For example,a recent study in New York found that hot days were associated with higher risk of emergency room visits for substance abuse, mood and anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and dementia. Add in the additional stress of the disaster zone and you have an explosive cocktail waiting for the water to boil.

Other studies show that hot weather is linked to lower performance on standardized tests risk of judgment errors, and higher risks of occupational injuries. Suddenly, in the wake of a storm, we have hundreds wielding anything form a shovel and axe to a chainsaw surrounded by heavy equipment, trucks and responder vehicles. It is a scary thought that the heat has all of these operator performing duties with diminished mental capacity.

The most important thing for everyone to do is to be aware that the health risks of extreme heat are real and important. Individuals should stay out of the sun as much as possible, drink a lot of water, and find places to cool off when needed. Agencies and VOADS need to take more precautions and invest in portable shelters with air cooling units or swamp coolers for their crews.

Every community is different in terms of the risks, vulnerabilities, and resources. When that community is suddenly inundated with FEMA, VOADs, volunteers, response personnel and utility workers, that community can grow in size by 100% in hours. Most have never given any thought to how they would handle that surge.

That means that heat action plans need to be developed by local agencies in partnership with the local communities they serve, building on best practices and shared knowledge from other regions. Response agencies and department along with VOADS need to start bringing more than response expertise to the scene and need to begin making greater investments in portable lodging, shelter and cooling abilities for their own people.

There is no one-size-fits-all heat action plan, but maybe this got ya thinking.


bottom of page