Sunday’s cold frontÂ brought Abilene brief relief from a grueling summerÂ of both above average temperatures and below average precipitation.Â This summer Abilene experienced 78 days of triple-digit temperatures – the most days since 1886, according to the National Weather Service.
The current conditions constitute the second most severe drought recorded in Texas since the 1950s, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb. This drought has caused difficulties for Abilenians and ACU, said Zane Dennis, executive director of facilities and campus development.
“It’s been an extremely difficult summer,” Dennis said.
July set the record for Abilene’s hottest month with an average temperature of 90.1 degrees. August beat that record with an average temperature of 90.3. June through August was about seven degrees hotter than normal for Abilene, according to the National Weather Service.
The Abilene summer was so hot that Sandy King, administrative coordinator for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said her dog did not want to go on walks until 10 p.m. This summer King’s electric bill increased by about $150 per month and ravished her plants.
“I tried to keep a garden,” King said. “It just burned up.”
High temperatures were paired with low rainfall. After an unusually dry June, July had only trace precipitation. The end of July markedÂ 40 consecutive days without rain, tying that month with the Julys of 1970 and 1946 for lowest precipitation, according to the Abilene Reporter-News.
Abilene finally felt rain again on Aug. 13 when a summer storm brought 3.53 inches of rain with it. This storm almost single-handedly gave August greater than normal precipitation and savedÂ Abilene from having one of theÂ driest summers in itsÂ history.
Mike Johnson, forecaster with the National Weather Service of San Angelo, said while Texas experienced the highest temperatures along the I-35 corridor, the heat wave began closer to Abilene.
“The western half of the state began to heat earlier in the summer,” Johnson said. “It spread East later.”
The early onset of heat spelt trouble for ACU, Dennis said.
The first triple-digit day occurred in May, far sooner than normal. The continuous heat of the summer evaporated a half inch of water every day, Dennis said, leaving the landscaping and grounds crew to hustle to keep the grass moist and the lake filled.
The lake caused some of the greatest challenges, Dennis said. The lakes pump only pushed in 320 gallons of water per minute, which was too little to keep up with the parched land and air.
“You could see the lake going down and down and down,” Dennis said.
The low water level in the lake brought about rise in snails and algae, Dennis said, which threatened to contaminate water in ACU’s sprinkler system. To solve the problem, the university replaced the old pump with one that could supply the lake with 800 gallons per minute.
The weather did not have much impact on the construction of the Royce and Pam Money Student Recreation and Wellness Center, but it did prevent the annual employee barbeque that customarily takes place midway through the summer because of fire risk, Dennis said.
To make up for the loss, Human Resources invited all employees to come out of the heat and enjoy an ice cream sundae one afternoon, Dennis said.
“All the guys got to go in and sit in the cool and eat ice cream,” Dennis said. “I thought it was pretty nice of HR.”