If you drive past an Oklahoma City utility crew in the next few days, you might notice a few workers sitting in the shade, sipping bottles of water.
Don’t worry. That’s what they’re supposed to be doing.
As daytime temperatures have climbed into the high 90s across central Oklahoma this week, the Oklahoma City Utilities Department is taking steps to keep its workers safe in the withering heat.
When high temperatures climb above 95 degrees, workers are required to take five-minute breaks every hour to sit in the shade and drink water, said Jesse Hilley, a safety manager for the utilities department.
During the hottest part of the summer, the department rearranges some workers’ schedules to avoid putting them outside in the heat of the day. But that isn’t possible for some workers, like water line maintenance crews, which are on duty around the clock, Hilley said.
Hot conditions are especially difficult for excavation workers, who may be working in holes eight feet underground, Hilley said. Any breeze that might be passing through the area won’t make it to the bottom of a hole, he said.
“It’s tough,” he said.
An Oklahoma Mesonet weather network station in north Oklahoma City recorded a high temperature of nearly 98 degrees Monday. The National Weather Service said Tuesday’s high temperature also was 98 degrees.
By 5:50 p.m. Tuesday, paramedics had responded to seven heat-related calls, including two at the U.S. Senior Open golf tournament in Edmond, Emergency Medical Services Authority spokeswoman Lara O’Leary said.
Although the first week of July brought sweaty, sticky conditions to the metro this year, it isn’t the warmest Oklahoma City has been in recent years during this time of the year. Oklahoma City’s high temperature was nearly 106 degrees on July 7, 2011, according to Oklahoma Climatological Survey data.
Forecasters say a cold front moving through the area will offer some relief Wednesday. The National Weather Service’s Norman forecast office predicts a high temperature of 91 degrees for the Oklahoma City metro area Wednesday.
But blistering heat will return to the area by the end of the week, with highs in the Oklahoma City metro area reaching 98 degrees on Saturday and Sunday.
Anyone who must be outdoors in extreme heat should drink more fluids that don’t contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar, limit outdoor activity to morning and evening hours and cut down on exercise during the hottest part of the day, according to the Oklahoma City-County Health Department.