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Texas has been facing unusually early hot weather — and there's more heat ahead

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A heatwave has gripped the middle third of the U.S. Texas residents have dealt with triple-digit temperatures for nearly two weeks. That's unusual for June. And forecasts show more extreme heat to come, KUT's Jill Ament reports, that has Texans trying to stay cool.

JILL AMENT, BYLINE: About 30 miles south of Austin in San Marcos, Texas, residents and visitors alike swim in the San Marcos River to escape the heat. The city and many other parts of the state have been dealing with a hundred-plus temperatures for the past several days. Cierra Vaughan talks about how this is one way her family has been trying to stay cool.

CIERRA VAUGHAN: I mean, the kids have been staying inside a lot more lately than wanting to go play outside just because they say it's too hot. So basically, staying in the AC and some kind of water.

AMENT: These triple digits in June are unusual. Victor Murphy is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. He says, typically, it rains more this time of year, keeping temperatures lower.

VICTOR MURPHY: June should be one of the wetter months of the year for a lot of Texas, at least the first couple of weeks of June. And obviously, that hasn't materialized, unfortunately.

AMENT: The warming climate is making heatwaves, droughts and floods more frequent and intense. Much of Texas is already experiencing severe or exceptional drought. Murphy says current weather patterns are reminiscent of 11 years ago. That's when the state experienced its driest year and one of its worst droughts.

MURPHY: That's what we saw in 2011. You know, drought begets heat, heat begets drought. And you sort of get back into this sort of a feedback cycle, if you will.

AMENT: And then there's the concern about Texas' isolated electric grid and if it'll meet the demand for power right now. On Sunday, the state surpassed its record power usage. But so far, there haven't been any major failures in the grid. Michael Webber is an engineering professor at the University of Texas in Austin. He credits renewable energy for bolstering the grid's performance.

MICHAEL WEBBER: We built a lot of wind and a lot of solar and a lot of storage in the last 15 years. And those sources are really stepping up big time to keep the grid in balance.

AMENT: In San Marcos, Austin resident Julie Kyle is spending the day at the river with her family to escape the heat.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER SPLASHING)

JULIE KYLE: And it's just been horrible. And being inside is - AC is running. So we decided to take a dip in the cold water for a couple of hours.

AMENT: She's worried about losing power, especially after experiencing outages during the state's deadly winter storm more than a year ago.

KYLE: I am a little concerned, but - I don't know - just have to keep our fingers crossed and see where everything goes.

AMENT: Some places saw a little relief Tuesday and Wednesday, with temperatures not quite reaching a hundred degrees. But the triple-digit heat will return over the weekend and into next week.

In San Marcos, Texas, I'm Jill Ament. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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