Battling a Texas heatwave while pregnant and living in a car

During a heat wave in 2022, a woman in Houston, Texas, fills an ice chest

Nearly 90 million people are currently under excessive heat alerts due to the southern US's record-breaking temperatures. Angelica Casas reports from San Antonio, Texas, that for some people there is no way out of the dangerously oppressive temperatures.   .

On Tuesday, Texas saw its highest-ever levels of power use as those who had air conditioning thankfully sought relief from the heat.

On Wednesday, a new attempt was planned to break that record. While requesting less electricity use, the Texas power authority assured residents that blackouts would not occur.

But not everyone has the option of going inside where it's cool.

Since leaving her job at a restaurant because she couldn't find trustworthy childcare, Bella De La Cruz and her 1-year-old son have been living out of their car. Moreover, she is four months pregnant.

She explained, "I drive around looking for where to park in the shade until it's nighttime, then I look for where to park for us to sleep.".

The San Antonio mother has been selling cups of chopped fruit during the day as she continues to look for child care and employment.

Their precarious living situation has been made worse by the heat.   .

To stay awake at night, she said, "I turn the car on every 30 minutes.". "Homeless people, strangers, and mosquitoes that enter the car prevent me from leaving the windows down. " .

Miguel Carrillo, a construction worker across the city, is toiling away outside in the scorching sun.

He says he covers himself from the sun with long sleeve shirts with hoods and a face shield, though that can only do so much.

In particular from midday until the afternoon, "you definitely feel it," he said. "Unfortunately, this task cannot be completed inside. My job involves building homes for the growing population in the city. " .

Carrillo advises those who must be outside to take breaks and hydrate well.

He advised against trying to endure the heat because it could seriously harm you. "I have personally observed it. " .

Construction workers dig a new line for a pipe during a period of hot weather in San Antonio, Texas, on 27 June, 2023
The record-breaking heatwave is posing health risks to construction workers in San Antonio, Texas (image file).

In the US, extreme heat claims the lives of more than 600 people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the county's medical examiner, at least nine people in Webb County, which is close to Texas' southern border, have passed away from heat-related illnesses. Additionally, according to Austin city officials, over 100 heat-related incidents have been attended to by paramedics in the previous two weeks alone.

A heat dome, a recurring weather phenomenon in the area, is to blame for the current sweltering conditions. It occurs when high pressure is confined to one location as a result of wind patterns. It is called a dome because it extends horizontally over many hundreds or even thousands of miles and penetrates the atmosphere to an altitude of 5 to 10 miles (8 to 16 kilometers).

According to Texas A&M University professor of atmospheric sciences John Nielsen-Gammon, "it's fairly common to have a heat dome in place somewhere at any given time during the summer.". Every couple of years, Texas experiences a weather event that is exceptionally hot. " .

The heat dome will cause higher temperatures for the area for the remainder of the summer, according to Mr. Nielsen-Gammon, a climatologist for the state, even though it will dissipate over the next few days and expand towards the northeast.

It has sped up the ground's drying out, he claimed. "Normally, temperatures rise as the ground becomes drier, but this will result in even warmer July and August temperatures than we might have otherwise. " .

Particularly for natural environments and those who are highly exposed to the heat, the effects on the area could be severe.

According to Mr. Nielsen-Gammon, because plants aren't getting the moisture they require, crops are beginning to show signs of stress and the risk of wildfires is rising.

For those without air conditioning, the health risks increase as the situation continues.

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