It’s been a harsh summer around the globe and it hasn’t skipped Austin, which has been setting high-temperature records galore this year.
While more than 85% of Americans are melting under temperatures above 90 degrees through this weekend, Austin is trudging into its 41st triple-digit day with a heat advisory issued from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday.
Anomalously high temps are expected to persist across most of the country thru this week, w/ triple-digit temps lingering in parts of the South Central US & a surge of #heat entering the Pacific NW by early next week 🌡️. For heat safety tips, visit: https://t.co/GEEQxOlSTNpic.twitter.com/VYSY5PAMrW
— NWS Weather Prediction Center (@NWSWPC) July 20, 2022
However, Austin isn’t the only city breaking records.
The South Central U.S. is sweating
These cities topped their daily heat records on Wednesday.
- Lawton, Oklahoma, tied its 2018 record of 111 degrees
- Abilene, Texas, hit 110 degrees, topping its previous 1936 record of 107
- Del Rio, Texas, topped its 2009 record of 106 at 108 degrees
- San Antonio, Texas, got to 104 degrees, breaking the previous record of 101 from 1996
- Fayetteville, Arkansas, was 103 degrees, its hottest since 2012, topping the record by one degree
- West Plains, Missouri, topped its 101-degree record from 1964 at 104 degrees
- Springfield, Missouri, tied its 2006 record at 103 degrees
Just one day before, nine Texas cities set records, including Austin, alongside one in Oklahoma.
- Wichita Falls, Texas, hit 115 degrees and broke its record of 112 set in 2018
- Borger, Texas, breaking its 109-degree 2018 record by two degrees
- Abilene, Texas, hitting 110 degrees again
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, hitting 110 and breaking its 1936 record by one degree
- Amarillo, Texas, breaking its 2018 record of 105 by three degrees
- San Angelo, Texas, tied its 2018 record at 108 degrees
- El Paso, Texas, broke its 1980 record of 105 by two degrees
- Austin’s Camp Mabry hit 106 degrees, breaking its 105 records from 1914, 1923 and 1951
- Midland International Air & Space Port in Midland, Texas, tied its 2018 record of 105
- Houston, Texas, tied its 2000 record at 100 degrees
A look to the near future
At least in Austin, it doesn’t look like it's going to cool down more than a couple of degrees. According to the National Weather Service, the forecast for the next five days shows triple-digit highs. Additionally, a look at The Weather Channel shows 100-degree days persisting into August.
Matias Segura swept his hand across a whiteboard in his office at AISD headquarters, describing how an entrance vestibule works. It might remind you of a sally port at a prison. The vestibule is designed to protect our children from the active shooters who have plagued our nation since Columbine in 1999.
“You start with the signage,” he said. “You know exactly where the entrance is, and that’s for first responders too. We really want to make sure we keep up with visitor patterns. If they come in, they go through a system. Driver’s license, background check, which takes about a minute. We have a software system.”
AISD Director of Operations Matias Segura explains the overall school construction and what the entry vestibule looks like. (Rich Oppel)
The vestibule has two sets of locked doors. The exterior set has an audio-visual intercom, operated by a desk officer who has a view of visitor parking, the building approach and the vestibule. If allowed in, a visitor is buzzed through and then faces questioning and clearance by the desk officer. The visitor is given a card-reader pass. If a second person attempts to “trail in” behind another visitor, he is trapped in the vestibule until his status is determined. The second set of doors, into the main school building, remains locked and shut. It is open when students arrive in the morning.
Thus, the days of walking into the school, maybe waving at the principal’s executive assistant and strolling off to the cafeteria for lunch with your daughter are gone, a relic of a more bucolic time when “active shooters” were never imagined. But one must ask, what do we give up for greater safety?
Austinites remembered the Uvalde shooting victims in a vigil at the Texas Capitol in May. (Tony Fuentes)
Some critics argue that we are at risk of losing traditional values in the redesign of schools, courthouses, hospitals, churches and shopping centers. Writing in The Washington Post, architecture critic Philip Kennicott said the nation’s gun culture “threatens an essential precondition for democracy: its public space… Ideals of openness, flow, transparency and access will no longer be sustainable.”
Segura contemplates the question. At 41, he has held his job as AISD director of operations for four and a half years. Prior to that he was a consultant who led the team to build Austin’s new courthouse. His Austin and Texas roots are deep. He was born here, graduated from Bowie High, and went off to Lubbock to earn a degree in civil engineering from Texas Tech. He returned to secure an MBA at the University of Texas at Austin. He and his wife Joy Burson-Segura have two daughters who attend AISD schools. Segura said he and his operations team love AISD, care deeply about their work, and want citizens “to see us as partners.”
Back to what we lose in hardening the schools.
Segura says, “We think about students’ health. Having daylight, bringing light into a hardened facility, being able to access outdoor learning areas, (which is) hypercritical, especially in what we have learned in the pandemic.” Segura doesn’t like the idea of moats around schools (exotic, expensive) nor of classroom bomb shelters (what would teachers and students think about their looming presence?), efforts that are being tried elsewhere.
Healthcare workers receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the AISD Performing Arts Center in Mueller in 2021. (Jordan Vonderhaar)
AISD must juggle school security with the historic use of our schools for other purposes, such as voting, PTA-PTO meetings, community fairs, and, more recently, COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and food distribution. AISD does not want to end those uses, so the challenge is to design schools with separate rooms or places for those uses.
Clearly, Segura has thought about balancing conflicting equities. For him, it’s not all locked doors and blank brick or concrete walls. He stresses the importance of building a culture that includes shared responsibility of all school employees where, for example, a custodian could ask a stranger whether they have a visitor’s badge. All staffers should be well-trained in security measures, knowledgeable about new technology, and committed to working as a team to protect students, teachers and others. “We are working very, very hard on the culture,” he says. “Also, we need (financial) investment if we are going to move the needle.”
Kennicott, the Washington Post critic, quotes the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan, a sociologist and New York Democrat, who said, “Architecture is inescapably a political art, and it reports faithfully for ages to come what the political values of a particular era were. Surely, ours must be openness and fearlessness in the face of those who hide in darkness.”
But that was in 2001. What messages will Austin’s new public schools convey to future generations about our 2021 political values?
“First and foremost, these are education spaces that belong to our community. Our objective is to create incredible learning experiences for our students and at the same time ensure that the students and staff are safe.” He said he wants people to view schools as “inspired,” places where they would want to send their children. “Great things are happening in that space,” and that teachers see a place where they want to work and where they feel safe.
Voters in AISD will decide Nov. 8 on a $2.44 billion bond package to provide “funding for improvements to enhance safety, centers on equity, benefits every campus, and addresses affordability,” according to AISD officials.
Ever had sushi delivered to you on a conveyor belt or tried Ukrainian borsch?
If you're looking for a restaurant that shakes up your dinner, try one of these newly-opened options.
Conveyor belt sushi
For a fun, interactive twist on your typical sushi dinner, head to Kura Revolving Sushi Bar. Upon sitting down, you’ll have a conveyor belt to one side, where you can pluck whichever plate piques your interest, or a screen that allows you to order plates a la carte. You’ll pay by the plate, which tends to be less than a few dollars each, and win prizes if you hit the right milestones.
Korean Egg Toast
Serving all things egg, Egg Bomb opened earlier this month at 808 North Lamar Blvd., taking over the former Ola Poke location. Egg Bomb specializes in Korean egg drop sandwiches, with toppings like cheese, caramelized onions, avocado, salmon and condiments; “Egg Tots,” or fries with eggs and toppings, as well as coffee and sides. You can also find egg toast and squid ink hotdogs at Oh K-Dog.
Tortas at La Plancha
With a desire to fill the torta-shaped whole they saw in Austin’s fare, co-owning couple Mariha Hinojosa and Julian Richmond opened La Plancha, 1701 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, on July 1. The Mexican sandwiches are served on a bolillo bun with toppings including avocado, barbacoa, queso fresco, refried beans, cheese, pickles and salsa. There are other options: Think papas fritas, street corn and mini-churros.
Ukrainian cuisine to-go
You can take your chicken Kyiv to-to at new takeout-only restaurant U-Cuisine, 5610 N. I-35, which opened in mid-June. Ukrainian chefs and owners Alla Shelest and Mariana Shelestiuk said they are trying to bring a taste of their home country amidst a difficult time in history. Try the chicken Kyiv, a dill and parsley-stuffed chicken breast rolled in breadcrumbs; borsch, a burgundy beetroot soup; Holubtsi, beef and pork cabbage rolls; and lviv syrnyk, a chocolatey raisin cheesecake.
- Austin ranks #5 in top foodie cities in US - austonia ›
- For Austin dog lovers, the Conscious Pet transforms kitchen scraps ... ›
- Austin food under $10, cheap eats that are delicious - austonia ›
- Complete guide to Austin FC's Q2 Stadium food options 2022 ... ›
- From Mexico City, machetes have made a spark in the Austin food ... ›