For those of you not familiar with our Texas summers, pay close attention. Your survival depends on it.
Central Texas weather, like most of the weather in Texas, is deceptive. The relative low humidity around here, plus a breeze, will lull you into a false sense of security about temperatures.
Don’t be fooled.
One spring day, I was at one of Fort Hood’s post exchanges to shop. I parked next to a car with a poodle locked inside and waiting for his family to return. He wasn’t waiting patiently and he looked a little panicked. The windows were slightly down, but the outside temperature was 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Inside a car, temps can rise to 100 degrees or more in no time, even with the windows slightly open. A dog can survive internal body temperatures of 104°F for only a few minutes before brain damage or death happens. Even on mild days a parked car can quickly become a killer.
I called the PX manager and he put out a page over the store’s speaker system asking the family to rescue their dog. I hope the poodle was okay, even if the family was probably a little peeved with me. It’s a risk I’m willing to take for a little critter. And it would have broken the hearts of that poodle’s people to come back to the van and find him seriously sick…or worse.
The dog-owners’ actions weren’t malicious at all. It’s just that the day was nice; the weather pleasant. Who would have thought how hot the interior of a car could get in a short time?
Every year, there’s a tragic news story about a baby or toddler who was left inside a car while the parent went indoors for “just a minute.” In Texas, as with any place with hot weather, staying in a car during the hot months can be a death sentence. I don’t leave my daughters alone anywhere, especially inside my car.
I’m not a health professional. I’m not an authority on heat-related health issues. But I am a parent and a pet owner, and I’m occasionally accused of having basic common sense. So from one parent to another, please don’t leave your children or animals in a car alone, especially in the heat.
According to the Texas Department of Health, our humidity can make heat-related illness even worse. So even though Central Texas has lower humidity than my own home region of East Texas, it’s still there and it can kill you if you’re not careful. I’m not even gonna talk about what it does to your hair.
Texans almost always follow up comments about any summertime event with this: “It wouldn’t have been so bad except for the humidity.” Baseball games, barbecue parties, the rodeo and your cousin’s wedding “would have been great…except for the humidity.” Heck, a nuclear bomb blast might even be tolerated…except for the humidity.
Summertime around here is NOT the time to have your air conditioning die on you. Have it inspected and your coolant recharged now before the summer crush…and I do mean “crush” and not “rush.” Friends, calls to the A/C guy only start as a rush. By July, it’s a crush and you might not get seen until October. I won’t live in a house without ceiling fans, either. Have some installed if you don’t have ‘em already.
During the hot months, drink lots of water and fluids with electrolytes in them. Stay away from colas, coffee, tea and alcohol because they will dehydrate you further. If you stop sweating, feel inexplicably loopy or your skin is dry and red, get help.
Leather seats in your car may seem like a luxury until you experience them during a Texas summer. Don’t wear shorts on a leather seat in the summer. I’m just letting you know now. If you do, you’ll either fry or stick…or both. And please don’t let your babies sit on ‘em without at least a bath towel between them and the seats. Burns aren’t fun for anyone.
As a friend of mine can tell you, gummi candy will not survive in a car during the summer. Her son and my daughters were toddlers at the time and things got left behind in our cars, much as they do now. That summer, my friend learned that gummi spiders left in a car in August will adequately replace commercial-grade adhesives with regard to stickiness.
I can’t talk about Texas summers without mentioning the Texas sun. We’ve all known about skin cancer long enough to know that prolonged periods of sun exposure can be deadly. Please wear sunscreen, even if you don’t think you need it. I only buy makeup with sunscreen in it. I work mostly indoors, but even a few minutes in the Texas sun can hurt you. I love a great tan too, but I get mine sprayed on rather than risk sun damage. And yeah, I feel kinda like I’m getting a paint job at Earl Scheib. But at least I’m not increasing my chances of developing melanoma.
You can rib us about our wintertime driving, but Texans know to drive during the summer in the early hours of morning or at night when it’s cooler. The chances of a breakdown during the summer seem higher. It’s not a bad idea to have some kind of summertime emergency kit in your car, and certainly always carry your cell phone with you. Make sure it’s fully charged before you leave the house.
I tell y’all this because some of you are new to Texas. I hope that y’all come to love this state as much as I do, and I’d hate to think your experience with us would end tragically. Be safe and take the heat seriously. The consequences of not doing so aren’t cool.