Summer heat, humidity add to pandemic discomfort

Joyce and Randall Jones tend to their garden while enduring the heat and humidity that gripped the Midlands through July. Staff photo by Tonya Rodgers

Hot! That is what we have all felt the last several weeks.

Of course, it is summertime in South Carolina, and it is July – at least for one more day. Temperatures have reached into the triple digits with the heat index. We are blessed, though, to live in a state where we have mountains to the north and the beach to the east, so if we need a getaway, it’s not too far away.

It is at this time of the year that South Carolinians feel they either should be staying inside with the air conditioner blasting or lounging in a pool or the cooling waters of Lake Murray. Animals are not immune from suffering the heat.  Plenty of water is needed for them as well as a cool place for them to rest.

One thing is for sure: whether you are young or older, whether you work outside or inside, all of us are in some way affected by the heat of the sun. 

Often times, we forget about the little ones during this time. Yes, it seems that when you are young, the heat might not seem as intense. However, children may be experiencing a more difficult time this year with the COVID-19 pandemic. Daycares have to limit children’s exposure to the heat, often by having outside playtime early in the day and holding indoor activities in the afternoon.

“It has been especially challenging this summer with our children, because we are not able to go on as many field trips as before because of COVID-19,” said Barbara Blymyer with The Happy Camper Child Development Center in Gilbert and Lexington.

Many places, such as the community pool in Saluda, are closed or are not allowing groups to come in, and with the additional heat and limited time outdoors at the center, the children often get more bored than normal.

“We are having more people come to the center to offer activities such as reading time, puppet shows, and bible school, and a big tarp for water slides was purchased,” Mrs. Blymyer said. “We also encourage the children to bring their own water and/or juice bottles and they go for outside playtime about 7:30 a.m. and are back in by 9:30 to 10 each morning.” 

Often, at the end of the day, everyone is exhausted because of the heat, so they head indoors to relax.  This time of year is often most difficult for those who work full-time outdoors, such as those in the lawn care industry.

“The heat makes our work twice as hard, and I never get used to it,” said Gary of Clean Cut Concrete and Lawn Services. “I have been doing landscaping and concrete work for 20-plus years, and my workers and I drink plenty of water and Gatorade, and a good hat helps, too. We start at daylight and try to get done daily by about 1:00 p.m. just to survive.”

And of course, you can’t live in South Carolina and not get homegrown vegetables this time of the year.  Many families grow their own food during the summer months, and the heat can be both good and bad. Usually with the rising temperatures, there is less rain needed for these crops to flourish.

“With the extreme heat during the day, warm nights and little rain, it is hard on our peas, corn, watermelons, and pumpkins we have planted,” said Melissa Price of Patchwork Farms, located on Denny Highway in Saluda County.  She and her family have a farm and sell local produce to area residents.

“As far as customers, I see them earlier in the day and later in the afternoon,” she added.

Some areas of Batesburg-Leesville have seen little to no rain over the last few weeks with the increased heat. This takes its toll on people with respiratory and pulmonary problems, including the older population.  Retired individuals often can be found at home in the air condition in the middle of the day, watching TV or taking a nap. As for retirees Randall and Joyce Jones, they get up early to perform their outside activities and then head in about lunchtime.
“Our bodies cannot tolerate the heat anymore, so we come in and may go back out later in the evening about 6:30 to 7:00 p.m.,” Mrs. Jones said.

Mr. Jones, who just turned 80 last week but acts like he is 40, added that, “I come in to nap and get refreshed. It is too hot too even go swimming until almost dark.”

Like a lot of folks, they are ready for a cooling down, but with August upon us, we probably have a while yet. Fall nights with bonfires, s’mores – and depending on what happens with COVID-19, perhaps football – are still a ways away.  For now, let’s just have a nice cold glass of lemonade or South Carolina sweet tea and sit inside for a while, instead of roasting on the front porch.