COMMENTARY: How To Survive the Heat Dome & Petition for Workers’ Rights

Words by Abigail Vela

“Oye, it seems like it’s way hotter this year than last year, right?” I sheepishly nod at the store clerk checking out the coconut water and a small but hefty watermelon I’m about to purchase. This is probably the tenth time I’ve heard someone utter this phrase. So much so that I found myself uttering these words to my friends and family. But it is much more than small talk: they are actual concerns about climate change and a warming planet. 


The RGV has been seeing triple digits for over a week straight, and the heat isn’t calming down, with the heat index, or “feels like” temps, reaching over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The highest temperature recorded in McAllen during June of 2021 was 95 degrees; in June of 2022, it was 101 degrees, whereas this year, we’ve broken records, going as high as 107 degrees (so far). Truth is, we are feeling the first-hand effects of climate change.

Fingerprints of Climate Change

Although we may not be meteorologists, the professionals have spoken: What we are experiencing is a phenomenon known as a heat dome. According to Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, “a heat dome occurs when stationary high pressure with warm air combines with warmer than usual air in the Gulf of Mexico and heat from the sun that is nearly directly overhead.”

Due to this intense and life-threatening heat, many people have sparked conversations about climate change. NPR’s Miles Parks addressed the climate change concerns to Fort Worth-based and National Weather Service meteorologist Victor Murphy, who identified two specific climate change “fingerprints”:


  • There’s less difference in temperature between the tropics and the North Pole, which results in a “blocky pattern of sort of ridges or troughs, areas of high pressure or low pressure just sort of being stuck in place.”

  • The second is the increase in these dew point temperatures. “The amount of water vapor that’s available in the atmosphere, the amount of water vapor that the atmosphere can hold, increases.” 

How To Stay Safe

While the record-breaking temperature and climate change are certainly a cause for concern, our RGV community has the capacity to survive this heat dome. A few key highlights from Ready.Gov and Almanac that we should take into strong consideration include:

 

  • Drink plenty of water and fluids.
  • Recognize the signs of heat illness.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • If you are able, avoid outdoors during the hottest part of the day (10 AM – 4 PM).
  • Keep cool with wet washcloths on your wrists and neck; take cold baths and showers; spritz your face with cold water. 
  • If you do not have access to an AC, head to a local cooling center. For a list of cooling centers in the RGV, click here.
  • Be sure to check on your elderly family and friends who are more susceptible to experiencing heat-related illnesses. 

 

Protect Farm Workers’ Rights!

In addition to checking in on the elderly, we must also check on other people in our community who are vulnerable to heat illnesses: farm workers, construction workers, contractors, and all the hardworking immigrant folks who work outdoors for a living. In response to a recent article about how farm workers ‘pull through’ in this heat, United Farm Workers tweeted, “There are still no federal heat protections for farm workers.” 

 

On Tuesday, June 13th, Governor Abbott signed House Bill 2127, a law that will eliminate ordinances were passed in Austin and Dallas in 2010 and 2015, respectively; these ordinances allowed for 10-minute water breaks every 4 hours for workers who work outside in the sun. HB 2127 will also prevent other cities from passing similar protections against the heat. Workers will be overexposed from the sun, which will ultimately result in an increase in heat-related illnesses and death. HB 2127 is, frankly, absurd and exposes Abbott’s lack of humanity and disregard for human lives, especially those who work to put the very food he eats on his plate. 

 

Please take a minute out of your day to sign United Farm Workers’ petition urging OSHA (The Occupational Health and Safety Administration) to pass emergency heat regulations!

United Farm Workers respond to an article on Twitter with the headline ‘Farm workers pull through in extreme heat conditions’ by stating “There are still no federal heat regulations for farm workers.”
Screenshot courtesy of United Farm Workers Twitter.

While we await for this extreme heat to subside, let’s help each other out in the community. For example, recently, workers have been fixing our complex’s broken fences—granted, these workers are usually outside during the hottest part of the day. When able, we’ve offered them slices of watermelon. Without asking for it back, the workers returned our plate with two slices of fresh pineapple on it. It’s nice to know that amidst this intense weather phenomenon, heat dome, or heat crisis that we’re all experiencing, nuestra gente seguirá ayudándose unos a otros.

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