I spent a good portion of my growing up years in west-central South Carolina, just across the Savannah River from Augusta, Ga., which we often referred to as "the armpit of civilization." Augusta and my little suburb, North Augusta, were hot, epically hot. Miserably hot. Painfully hot.
I often showed up at football practice at 9 a.m. in late August when the temperature and humidity were both in the 95 range. We didn't have any fat football players. Kids fell over dead on occasion until the South Carolina General Assembly mandated water breaks--imagine the government having to do something that basic--and coaches started giving us salt tablets.
It was the kind of misery that sticks with you over a lifetime and during these middle days of July as the temperature climbs toward the dreaded 100 degrees, I am reminded of just how hot hot is. I spent much of yesterday in air conditioning, something I generally avoid because I don't breathe well in treated air and it gives me a headache. But that's better than being sucked dry by oppressive heat. Today, I'll likely repeat.
All this brings up the questions, "How hot is it and who has it worst in our country?" to which the Internet provides a quick answer. Here are the U.S. cities that average the most 100 degree days a year (with the number following):
Las Vegas 72
Riverside, Calif. 25
Austin 12 (it had already passed 30 by early June of this year)
Oklahoma City 10
San Antonio 9
Salt Lake City 6
Kansas City 6
The average high temperature in Phoenix--that means every day of the year--is 84.5. By comparison, Charlotte's average is 72, Boston's 59, Kansas City 64, Memphis 72, Hartford 61. Phoenix, like so many big cities, has paved its way into extremes of temperature and made air conditioning a year-round requirement.
In Roanoke (where the highest temperature ever was 105, a number Phoenix and about half of Texas finds familiar), the average annual high daily temperature is 67.2, which most of us would welcome even as a daily low right now when temperatures aren't dropping out of the 70s. The average high for July is 88, our hottest month.
What all this means is "not much." It's hot and little mental exercises, I suppose, remove the mind from the misery for a few minutes at a time.