Water flowed freely at high school football practices Monday as players and coaches sweated through the hottest weather of the summer.
Not coming nearly as freely, but clearly a companion, were curses, complaints and cajoling as players ran sprints and then donned shoulder pads and helmets.
“Oh, my God, it's hot,” one player lamented loudly to no one in particular as he pulled pads over his head at Central High School's stadium. “Dang that metal.”
The late-summer heat wave slowed the normal pace of life in the Midlands. Schools are easing up on student athletes, and the handful of buildings without air conditioning are curtailing the school day. Employers are encouraging workers who labor outside to take extra breaks, and some families are rethinking outdoor plans.
And for good reason. Before this heat ends, it's likely to challenge records for the final week of August.
Omaha's record for the highest average temperature during August's final seven days was 83.6 degrees, set in 1881, said Barbara Mayes, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
According to Mayes, temperatures will probably rise this week before dropping, as conditions become drier each day.
“We are pretty humid right now,” Mayes said. “The longer the heat goes on, the less humid it will become — the heat is basically going to cook the moisture out of the ground, which means that temperatures can rise a little higher.”
Daytime highs are forecast to be in the mid- to upper 90s.
“Triple-digit days? To get those at this time of year, everything has to be just right,” said Tom Kines, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc., The World-Herald's weather consultant.
Triple-digit temperatures are rare in late August because the days are shorter and the sun's rays are less intense.
“Having said that, I certainly think there's that possibility,” Kines said. “Just the fact that Sunday got to 97 tells me there could be a day or two down the road where it gets to 100 degrees.”
Mayes said a few weak storm systems are expected to move across the central United States, but none is expected to be strong enough or direct enough to dislodge the heat here.
St. Cecilia Grade School near 38th and Webster Streets is dismissing classes early through Wednesday because of the heat, said Principal Paulette Rourke.
The school has air conditioning in the library, cafeteria, science lab and computer room, but not in general classrooms, said Rourke, who has been with the school for 40 years, the past five as principal and 35 years as a teacher.
In that time, she can't recall such a run of hot days so late in the season.
“There's not been a time when we've had to do so many early dismissal days,” she said.
Mark Zulkoski, principal of St. Bernard School, said the grade school near 65th Street and Military Avenue will follow its regular schedule, but students will move to air-conditioned areas.
Bob Danenhauer, athletic director for the Omaha Public Schools, said districts in the metro area work collaboratively to follow locally adjusted heat guidelines set by the National Federation of High School Sports.
All sports will hold practice at least through Wednesday, at which time athletic directors will re-evaluate, Danenhauer said.
Football and cross-country practices have been shortened, he said. Football players in high school and middle school will wear fewer pads, and coaches will closely watch the students.
At Central High, players said they didn't have to wear as many pads for as long as usual. Players will practice only in shoulder pads, not leg pads.
Quarterback and middle linebacker Michael James, a senior, said the pads add about 10 degrees to the temperature on the field. That's in addition to the noticeably hotter, more stifling conditions on the field than outside the stadium.
Benjamin Gauff, a junior who plays offensive guard and defensive end, said he keeps cool by drinking lots of water and dousing himself with water from fountains on the sidelines.
“It's fun,” he said, his game face intact, before adding, “This is not fun at all.”
“These are the hottest days so far this summer,” Gauff said, “and they're probably worse because summer wasn't that bad.”
Rebecca Kleeman, spokeswoman for the Millard Public Schools, said districts are using a new standard to assess conditions.
Called the “wet bulb globe temperature,” it is a calculation that attempts assess the combined effect of temperature, humidity, wind speed and sunlight on humans. The standard is used by some in industry, athletics and the military.
High school sports holding practices this week are cross-country; girls softball and golf; boys tennis; and football.
World-Herald staff writers Julie Anderson and Kiley Cruse contributed to this report.