Texans love to brag, though most are ready to stop talking about one of the hottest, deadliest and costliest summers in state history.
The calendar says Wednesday is the first day of autumn, but the heat is hanging around: 100-degree temperatures were forecast in many parts of the Lone Star State.Texans would like to be done with the summer of 1998, the season that gripped the Dallas area with 29 straight days of 100-plus heat. They're not likely to be nostalgic over making it through the second-driest summer on record.
Mary Jo Walker's kids will recall how they were dragged to the library, pool, shopping mall and twice to Colorado - just about anywhere there was air conditioning or cooler weather. "You can't do Chuck E. Cheese's every day," Walker said.
Security guard Beth McDonald said she would "go home, turn on the air conditioner, strip and play on the computer."
Dallas-Fort Worth endured its hottest May-August on record. Overall temperatures averaged 85.9 degrees, exceeding the 85.6 average in 1980.
Fifty-one times - more than seven weeks in all - afternoon highs reached or exceeded 100 degrees. Sundown brought little relief, with overnight lows of at least 80 a record 38 times.
At least 131 people died of the heat in Texas, including 51 illegal immigrants near the Mexican border. About 100 died of the heat in 1980, excluding illegal immigrants.
Searing, unrelenting heat also took a deadly toll elsewhere over the summer: At least 31 died in Louisiana, 22 in Oklahoma, seven in Alabama, three in Missouri, two in Pennsylvania and one each in California, Arizona and Oregon.
Many of the heat's victims in Oklahoma were elderly people who didn't have air conditioning.
"There were a lot of people who said they were tired and sluggish, said they weren't resting well," said Candy Richardson, city clerk and treasurer in Altus, Okla., which recorded 89 days of triple-digit heat. "I think everyone here is ready for winter."
The drought of 1998 barely dampened Texas: With 5.84 inches of rain from April to August, only the Dust Bowl year of 1934 was drier.
The heat ravaged Texas' cotton and corn crops. Agricultural losses were estimated at more than $2.1 billion, making it the costliest drought since a seven-year dry stretch of the 1950s.
Trees, shrubs and grass are scorched brown. Many plants simply gave up. Similar stories could be told of surrounding states, especially Oklahoma, where rainfall was a foot below normal.