By Mayor Bill Jenks, III
Extreme heat, and the dog-days of summer are by no means something new to folks in the Ozark Highlands, but most will agree that the recent 10-day heat wave that included multiple days of temperatures well above 100 degrees, (without the heat index) was one of the worst spells of hot, dry weather since the days of the infamous Dust Bowl.
Fortunately for us Mother Nature intervened last weekend (like something right out of the movie Sarah Plain and Tall) when we needed rain the most, and two downpours (that also brought dangerous winds, thunder and lightning), were so significant that the Rolla Fire and Rescue Department was able to lift a County- and City-wide burn ban that was implemented prior to the July 4th holiday.
Seeing the grass, and even some trees and bushes turn various shades of brown, and even in some cases white, it is easy to see where the term ‘scorched earth’ got its name. Realizing how hot and how dry the ground had gotten from the heat wave, I have to commend the Fire Departments in Phelps County, our own Fire & Rescue Department, Rolla Police Department and local law enforcement agencies, for working together to get the word out to the community regarding the potential hazards of fire caused by the draught and extremely hot weather. A special thanks goes to the Rolla Daily News and other local media outlets for several articles and public service announcements on the potentially dangerous conditions caused by the heat wave, including many important tips and tricks on how and where to stay cool and healthy during such harsh weather conditions.
Knowing that the community is aware of where to go when it gets too hot (i.e., cooling centers), and how to best protect ourselves during severe heat, is reassuring, considering that the hottest weeks and months of the summer are still ahead. To say the recent, unrelenting heat wave we experienced was a dress rehearsal for more severe weather ahead, would be premature, but I’m sure we have all reviewed and reconsidered the necessary precautions we all need to take during such hot, dry weather conditions.
It’s never inappropriate to express my gratitude and appreciation also for all the City employees who work outside regardless of the weather conditions and temperature. The Street Division continues to fill pot holes, fix traffic lights/signals, build and pave roads, the Sanitation Division continues to pick up waste and recycling materials; the Parks and Recreation Department continues to operate and maintain our park system, and 320 acres of park and cemetery land; the Rolla Police Department continues to patrol and protect our streets, sidewalks, neighborhoods and businesses; the Community Development Department continues to conduct inspections, make site visits and issue building permits; Rolla Fire & Rescue continues to respond to emergency calls and provide necessary first response service to those in need. While is it is easy to say that working in 110 degree weather is part of the job, I think if any one of us worked 5 to 10 days straight in that kind of heat, we might have a difference of opinion.
In closing, I would like to encourage anyone who has not yet seen the progress that is being made at Veterans Memorial Park (located on Southview Drive), including the recent completion of a new pavilion and the U.S. Armed Forces Pentagon. Many individuals, groups and businesses are working together to complete the many phases of this park, including the members of the South Central Regional Veterans Group (S.C.R.V.G), our very own U.S. Army soldiers stationed in Fort Leonard Wood, the City’s Parks and Recreation Department of course, and many other U.S. veterans and supporters of the military and Veterans Memorial Park. I am confident that the time is not so distant when we will see the completion of this multi-phased, 11-acre park with significant donations from the community and region, state funding and possibly even federal funds that will make it the premiere Veterans Park in South Central Missouri, if not the entire state.
Enjoy the weekend and have a safe week!