Heat wave expected to bake Kentucky
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky will bake under a heat wave so intense it's stopping the horses from running at Churchill Downs. And combined with dry conditions, it's silencing fireworks in some areas.
Forecasters predicted temperatures will soar into triple digits across the western half of Kentucky starting Thursday.
The blast of heat is expected to simmer through the weekend in the Bluegrass state.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear signed an executive order Wednesday directing state officials to expedite transporting emergency supplies to counties mired in drought. Three-fourths of the state's counties are in a moderate to severe drought.
The executive order directs the state Transportation Cabinet to waive special registration and permit requirements for vehicles carrying such relief supplies as water, livestock forage and hay to stricken areas.
Health officials warned people to stay indoors. People without air conditioning are urged to go to shopping malls or libraries to cool off.
The only ray of comfort in the coming days will be low humidity levels. As a result, the heat index will be only slightly higher than the actual temperatures, John Gordon, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Louisville, said Wednesday.
"People say it can't get any worse," he said. "Well yes it can. Imagine if you brought that air from the Gulf of Mexico up here, then you would really feel much more uncomfortable."
Temperatures are expected to soar to 101 to 104 degrees in areas west of Interstate 65 on Thursday, he said. Highs will reach 98 to 100 in parts of central Kentucky. In eastern Kentucky, highs will be in the mid to upper 90s, he said.
The triple-digit heat will linger through the weekend in parts of western and central Kentucky, he said.
Churchill Downs canceled its nine-race card Thursday due to the expected heat. The famed track, home of the Kentucky Derby, has postponed racing due to mud, rain, snow, tornado warnings and cleanup from damage of a 2011 tornado. But track spokesman Darren Rogers said it appeared to be the first cancellation due to extreme heat.
"We know how important these races and their purses are to our owners and trainers, but the health and safety issues convinced us this was the proper call for Thursday's programs," track President Kevin Flanery said.
Trainer Dale Romans said he thought most horses and people could handle the heat, but said the track made the right call. Romans, who had four horses entered in Thursday races at the track, said he has seen horses suffer heat stroke.
"These are professional athletes," he said. "They're exerting all their energy, and everybody knows how tough it is to get that hot. Some of the horses just can't cool down fast enough afterward."
Churchill said the final three days of racing during its spring meet will be in the evening because of the heat. The first race will be at 6:30 p.m. EDT Friday through Sunday. The Friday and Sunday racing cards had been scheduled to begin in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, some cities and counties in Kentucky imposed burn bans due to fears that tinderbox conditions from the dry spell could spark fires. In some places, fireworks were also banned as the Fourth of July holiday approaches.
Livestock producers were being told to keep a close eye on their herds and make sure they had access to plenty of water and shade. Farmers also were urged to avoid transporting livestock if possible during such extreme heat.
In Henderson, people won't have to pay as much to cool off at the municipal pool. The city commission this week cut the admission price in half for the remainder of the season. The price cut comes after a water feature that sprayed water for children was shut down, but city officials saw a bonus to the lower admission as the heat wave approached.
Elsewhere, the mayor or Radcliff and other political leaders agreed to take a plunge into the local pool on Friday while clad in business attire. The event will raise money for a playground at the local elementary school.
Mayor J.J. Duvall said it's one way to beat the heat for a good cause.
"We'll probably enjoy it," he said. "It might feel kind of good."