Hot Work

City of Ada worker Richard Pearce waters flowers in a downtown parking lot at midday Thursday.

Associated Press

A heat wave which has scorched the country’s midsection and is responsible for at least 22 deaths across the nation is showing no end as far as Oklahoma is concerned.

Experts have called this the worst heat wave in more than a decade and forecasters aren’t predicting an end anytime soon. Ada has had temperatures above 100 degrees for 22 consecutive days and above 90 for 53.

As if the heat wasn't bad enough, Ada is on it’s 57th consecutive day with less than a quarter-of-an-inch of rain. The area has received only 11.24 inches of rain in 2011 compared to 30 inches at this time last year. The area received more than 40 inches of rain (each year by July 22) in 2008 and 2009.

The Associated press reported Thursday heat is suspected in the death of an Oklahoma man who was found in a field near Gravette, Ark. Monday.

Authorities said 38-year-old Roger Russell was found in the field about 3 p.m. and was pronounced dead at a local hospital. The body has been sent to the Arkansas Crime Laboratory for an autopsy.

On Wednesday, Gov. Mary Fallin amended a state of emergency to include all 77 Oklahoma counties because of ongoing drought conditions that are expected to worsen, the AP reports.

Fallin issued the amended declaration to ensure the state is eligible for any federal assistance that may be available.

While Fallin was out of the state last month, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb declared a state of emergency at Fallin’s request for 33 Oklahoma counties due to extreme drought and wildfires. Fallin says forecasts show drought conditions are expected to worsen for the entire state.

The Associated Press reported vast amounts of warmth and moisture have become trapped under a huge “heat dome,” bringing record-breaking temperatures and thick, tropical air to scores of cities from the Plains to the Ohio Valley.

A heat dome forms when a high pressure system develops in the upper atmosphere, causing the air below it to sink and compress because there’s more weight on top. That raises temperatures in the lower atmosphere, said Eli Jacks, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Silver Spring, Md.

The dome of high-pressure also pushes the jet stream and its drier, cooler air, farther north — it’s now well into Canada — while hot, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico circulates clockwise around the dome, traveling farther inland than normal.

Combined with generally clear skies and the sun’s higher summertime angle, “it gets really hot,” Jacks said.

The formation of the dome also explains why conditions in, say, North Dakota aren’t much different this week than in Houston. The big difference is that people in Houston are accustomed to hot weather. Those in the north are not.

“In places where the highest temperature you ever expect is in the 80s and you’re at 102, there are big health concerns,” because fewer people have air conditioning or fans, Jacks said. “Heat is the No. 1 killer out of all weather hazards.”

What’s more, because of the humidity, even nighttime brings little relief.

Humidity makes the weather feel far hotter because the body, which cools itself by perspiring, has to work harder when the air is already moist.

“It’s harder to cool down,” said Jannie Ferrell, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

On Wednesday, it began moving out of Texas and the Dakotas, headed east and northeast. Thunderstorms can develop around the perimeter of the dome — called the “ring of fire” — bringing temporary relief to some areas. But this dome is so large that the heat rebuilds quickly, said Kevin Birk, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Illinois.