Weather

Blistering heat is expected to stick around the Wichita area for a while

Officials are urging residents of the Wichita metropolitan area to monitor their neighbors and pets as one of the strongest heat waves in decades continues.

Triple digit temperatures are expected to persist for the next several days in and around Wichita as a high pressure ridge remains rooted over the Great Plains.

"We haven't had this many 100-degree days in a long time," said Robb Lawson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wichita.

Monday marked the twelfth day this summer that the mercury reached triple digits, and 100s are anticipated the rest of the work week.

If those forecasts prove accurate, it would mean by Friday afternoon Wichita will have hit 100 on 12 of the past 15 days.

Over the past 30 years, Wichita has averaged 10 days of triple digit temperatures annually.

The city hasn't seen a stretch like this since the temperature hit 100 for nine straight days in 2003, weather service records show.

There was another stretch of eight consecutive days of 100-degree days in 1990, Lawson said.

"One thing we're kind of concerned about is... a lot more people are probably outdoors" this week, he said.

That includes area prep football teams, who are running practices in preparation for the coming season.

More than a dozen dogs rescued from a breeding operation shut down by the Kansas Animal Health Department were delivered to the Caring Hands Humane Society at 5 a.m. Saturday to avoid the heat.

"Recent temperatures can be dangerous for any animal, but these in particular were in a weakened state of health and mind due to the conditions they have endured," Jack Brand, marketing coordinator for the shelter, said in a prepared statement.

Heat is also blamed for a chemical leak Monday that prompted the evacuation of one business and the closing of surrounding streets for more than two hours.

The leak was reported at Millenia Products, 3201 N. Mead, at 8:52 a.m. Employees arriving at work reported smelling a foul odor, and firefighters sent to investigate found methyl methacrylate leaking from storage crates in a warehouse, said Mike Wells, the acting battalion chief who supervised the on-scene emergency response.

Methyl methacrylate is used in the manufacturing of resins and plastics.

Short-term exposure to low levels of the chemical can irritate lungs, causing shortness of breath and coughing.

Millenia's employees were sent home for the day as a precaution and surrounding businesses were told to keep their workers indoors.

Nearby intersections were blocked as a safety precaution, though normal traffic resumed a little more than two hours later.

One firefighter suffered a minor injury when he slipped on the leaking chemical and fell in the darkened warehouse. He was taken to a local hospital for evaluation and then released.

Authorities blamed the leak on the heat, because the chemical expands as temperatures rise.

"There was smoke coming off the product, and off the floor," Wells said. "The products... they were reacting to the heat" in a process known as polymerizing.

The weather service has issued an excessive-heat warning until 7 p.m. Wednesday for much of central and eastern Kansas, meaning the heat index could reach 110 degrees at times.

And officials warned it could be extended through the end of the work week.

"Make plans now to avoid strenuous outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day," the agency cautioned in a weather statement.

But there's good news around the corner: a robust cold front is expected to bring notably cooler temperatures to the area over the weekend and early next week, Lawson said.

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