The current heat wave hanging over Kansas has a number of safety and economic impacts for the state.
As Lawrence residents venture out for the Downtown Sidewalk Sale today, they should be mindful of the health effects of 100-degree-plus temperatures. The sale is a fun event and an annual tradition for many residents, but shoppers should pace themselves and take advantage of cooling stations designated along Massachusetts Street to provide some air-conditioning and a cool drink of water to go with the hot bargains.
It’s also important during extreme heat for local residents to make sure their neighbors aren’t stuck without air-conditioning or fans to keep them cool. The same goes for pets, who need plenty of shade and water or a cooler spot inside to help them handle the heat.
State officials also are painfully aware of the economic impacts of current heat and drought conditions. Gov. Sam Brownback took the opportunity this week to tour some of the 82 Kansas counties that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared as federal disaster areas because of dry conditions. Agriculture still is a primary economic driver in Kansas, and there’s little farmers can do to mitigate the damage now being done to fall crops including corn, milo and soybeans. Conditions nationwide are contributing to higher grain prices which likely will have a subsequent impact on food prices.
Today’s sidewalk sale may be an exception, but the kind of heat the state is experiencing makes people less inclined to venture outside their homes, putting a damper on retail sales, tourism and other businesses. About the only businesses that profit from this kind of weather are the electric companies and municipal water utilities. This summer’s air conditioning and water bills may benefit the suppliers, but they will put a crimp in the budgets of many Kansas residents.
There’s nothing we can do about the heat except wait it out. Some observers point out that the number of 100-degree days we’ve had this summer still doesn’t match the summer of 1936 during the heart of the Dust Bowl. Our Kansas ancestors were able to survive that onslaught without many of the cooling comforts we enjoy today. Maybe we’ve just gotten soft, but we’ll be glad to see some cooler temperatures and a little rain.