If Wichita had a Mount Rushmore for hot summers, two years would be on it: 1936 and 1980. They may well be joined by 2011.
"I have some concern we may have hot temperatures similar to 1980," said Larry Ruthi, meteorologist in charge of the Dodge City branch of the National Weather Service. "Extreme drought makes it very easy for us to get very hot, and I'm not seeing a break to it coming up."
The heat wave and extended stretch of dry weather is starting to exact a toll.
The Augusta City Council implemented mandatory water restrictions during a special meeting Monday night. City Manager Bill Keefer said residents will be able to water lawns only on odd or even days, depending on their address. They may water only between 6 and 9 a.m. and 7 and 10 p.m.
"We'll watch that over the next week or so and see if we have to do anything beyond that," Keefer said.
The council will also consider raising water rates for high usage at its regular meeting next Monday.
Keefer said voluntary reductions in water usage enacted last week weren't achieving the necessary results.
"We can't wait another week," Keefer said.
Water levels at the Augusta city lake have dropped to the point that local officials estimate they only have about seven weeks' worth of water available for residents.
While the city gets two-thirds of its water from El Dorado Lake, Keefer said, the city lake is what allows the city to meet peak demand.
"We are in a position where we need to get whatever we have left here to last... until September," when rains will hopefully replenish area lakes and ponds, he said.
James Fair, director of Sumner County Emergency Management, fears the worst if the heat wave lasts all summer.
"Our farmers are struggling with it," Fair said. "A lot of them are starting to have to sell their cattle just because they can't keep water to them.
"The pastures are all burning up, so they don't really have anything to feed them. There's no hay."
"A lot of our ponds that historically have always been able to maintain water now are very low," Fair said. "Ponds they normally use to water the cattle, there's just nothing there."
Relief isn't likely to come soon, Ruthi said.
A strong dome of high pressure has set up just west of a drought-stricken region from southern Texas to southwest Kansas, Ruthi said, deflecting any fronts that could bring desperately needed moisture — and cooler temperatures.
The result has been a steady diet of 100-degree days throughout the southern Great Plains, with no relief in sight.
Hutchinson was the hottest city in the nation Sunday at 112, and Wichita's 111 broke the record for July 10 set in 1980.
There were no heat-related cases at Wesley Medical Center on Monday, a hospital spokeswoman said, but there were two over the weekend.
Figures were not available for Via Christi hospitals.
Wichita hit 105 on Monday, making it the 19th day of the year to reach triple digits. The annual average is 10.
The all-time record for 100-degree days in Wichita is 50, set in 1936. There were 46 in 1980.
"We have all of August to go — and half of July," said Robb Lawson, a meteorologist with the Wichita branch of the weather service. "We got a ways to go."
But if this current pattern holds up, he said, "it's going to be close."
Ruthi said he wished he had "something positive to grab a hold of. I'm not seeing a magic bullet that's going to break it up."
Fair finds himself wanting to talk to some of Sumner County's old-timers to find out "if this is the same kind of progression that they can recall leading up to the Dust Bowl," he said. "I wish my grandfather was here, because he used to talk about it all the time."
It's a legitimate question to ponder, Ruthi said — particularly in parched western Kansas.
"We've had virtually no green-up this spring," he said. "If we don't have some decent precipitation this fall — something to get the wheat up — it's going to be pretty barren next year.
"It's not out of the question we could see a lot of blowing next year."