Dallas’s Summer to Forget

Nobody who lives south of the Mason-Dixon line doubts the importance of an AC in good repair. But for residents of Dallas and cities across the south central U.S., the summer of 2011 brought that point home in the most extreme way possible. By the end of July, record heat and a catastrophic lack of rainfall were blamed for 64 deaths and livestock losses in the thousands. Even for residents across the south accustomed to blasting their ACs from June to September, summer 2011 was one to remember – or, rather, one to forget.

Dallasites have endured intense summer heat many times since the city began keeping records around the turn of the 20th century. For anyone old enough to recall it, the summer of 1980 looms large. In that year, records fell by the dozens, as week after week of 100-degree temperatures wore on, and residents came to dread the phrase “no relief in sight.” In all, that year the city recorded a then-staggering 69 days of 100-plus-degree temperatures. AC repair companies couldn’t keep up with demand, raking in enough business to keep them flush into the winter and beyond. The heat wave turned into an international story, covered by news teams from Europe and as far away as Japan. By summer’s end, the heat spell had been blamed for close to 1,700 deaths across the south.

But compared to the summer of 2011, 1980 was a breeze. If the National Weather Service’s statistics for the period are accurate, Dallas’s summer of ‘11 broke nearly every record in the book. For starters, the season will go down as the hottest summer on record for the entire state – in addition to Oklahoma and Louisiana. The month of August was the hottest ever. The hottest day in 11 years – 110 degrees – was August 2. The city recorded its highest “low” temperature ever: 86 degrees. As AC repair companies found themselves booked through the month of September and beyond, perhaps the most impressive – or distressing – record was the 70-day streak of 100-degree temperatures, which broke the 1980 record that many had probably hoped would remain in the history books.

At long last, the heat wave broke. Cooler temperatures prevailed, and Dallas residents turned down their ACs and rolled down their car windows. They bore the faint hope that electric bills in 2012 wouldn’t equal their mortgage payments. It’s safe to say that nobody will soon forget the dog days of 2011, when even the AC repairmen were ready for summer’s end.

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