No rain on Riverfest, but it's sweltering

06/07/2011 12:00 AM

05/31/2012 2:44 PM

Dogged for years by cool, damp conditions that hampered turnout, Wichita River Festival officials moved this year's event back about a month in the hope of better weather.

So what happens?

One 100-degree day after another — with more on the way.

"Shocking, isn't it?" Janet Wright, the festival's president and CEO, said wryly on Monday.

If, as expected, Wichita reaches triple digits again today, it will mark the fifth straight 100-degree day, a streak that began Friday, the festival's opening night.

Monday's high of 102 tied the record high for June 6 set in 1933.

Festival officials are taking it all in stride, though.

"So far, we're managing pretty well," Wright said.

Attendance for the first three days is about 130,000.

"That's pretty good, and we're happy with it," she said. "People seem to be very cool. They don't seem to be hurting too much."

A few festival attendees got overheated, Wright said, but volunteers quickly alerted EMS crews and the people have recovered well.

Festival staff are watching volunteers, too.

"We've been working really hard to make sure our volunteers are well hydrated," Wright said. "It's just 'do the best you can.' "

Local hospitals reported no heat-related cases in their emergency rooms, officials said.

Temperatures are about 15 degrees above normal for this time of year, according to National Weather Service records.

Weather patterns in place are more consistent with August than early June, weather service meteorologist Jim Caruso said.

"It's definitely more of a midsummer pattern," he said.

A dome of high pressure has settled over the southwest U.S., and hearty winds out of the southwest are bringing hot, dry air to Kansas.

The dry spring means little solar energy has to be expended drying vegetation, so that heat just helps boost temperatures.

"This heat's coming a little earlier than most want it," Caruso said.

Westar officials reported no heat-related power outages since the temperatures hit 100 on Friday.

But water usage has spiked with the rising temperatures, city officials said.

The 24-hour usage totals topped 83 million gallons each of the three consecutive days of 100-degree temperatures through Sunday, said Joe Pajor, co-interim director of public works and utilities.

Sunday saw the highest demand of the period, with 86.4 million gallons used.

By contrast, when the high temperature reached 86 on May 31 — which is still four degrees higher than the average for the end of May — only 59 million gallons of water were used by customers in the city.

Water demand figures to remain high for a few more days.

Temperatures are expected to reach or top 100 again today and Wednesday before a front moves through, bringing cooler temperatures and slight chances for rain through Sunday.

In fact, the current forecast calls for highs on the final day of the festival Saturday to be in the 80s.

"Wouldn't that be a pleasure?" Wright asked.

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