For decades, thousands of people have flocked to Oklahoma City to witness the Women’s College World Series. As it happens, the annual event also tends to usher in summertime heat for Oklahoma, but local officials are always prepared for both.
“Any time there are events with a large number of people in the summer, we assume we will see a handful of suspected heat-related illness calls,” said Adam Paluka, chief public affairs officer for Oklahoma’s Emergency Medical Services Authority.
People living inside and outside of central Oklahoma might wonder what to expect as they pack into the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex. In recent summers, the state has weathered record-breaking heat and drought-worsening conditions, which can make sitting in a stadium painful, even when your team is winning.
Is it hotter this year than it was last year or the year before?
Mid-May through mid-June is often unpredictable in Oklahoma, frequently shifting between extremes of severe heat and sudden cold fronts, which state climatologist Gary McManus says has become a troubling norm.
“This time of year, it is often ‘sensibly hot,’ so even though the temperature might be 70 or 83, you are sitting out in direct sunlight most of the time and more heat is coming on top of you, and that adds a lot of pressure onto your body to cool yourself down,” McManus said.
Sweat is the body’s natural way of cooling itself down, but increased humidity during the summertime in the Oklahoma City metro often interferes with this, causing body sweat to not evaporate as quickly, McManus said.
“At this time in Oklahoma, the sun is high in the sky and there is a lot of humidity a lot of the time,” McManus said. “But right now, we do see increased chances for above-average precipitation, and that naturally flows into more cloud coverage. If you have higher precipitation, you have more clouds and you have milder conditions on the thermometer.”
In 2021, temperatures in early June started off in the low 70s, before suddenly spiking into the 80s and reaching low 90s.
Early June 2022 fared a little better, zigzagging between the mid-70s and high 80s throughout the length of the tournament.
This year, meteorologists are forecasting a more consistent temperature pattern from June 1 to June 10, with most days expected to hit highs in the mid-80s. The slight exception is Saturday, which is projected to hit a high of 79, and that’s likely due to the cooling effects of potential rain.
“We have a very moist atmosphere at the moment, and things get fairly unstable there during the afternoon,” Zwink said. “We expect pop-up showers and thunderstorms pretty much the entire weekend.”
Sudden downpours already caused two game delays Thursday, and meteorologists expected similar conditions late Friday spilling into Saturday.
Strong to severe thunderstorms are possible today, especially during the afternoon and evening hours. Scattered storms are expected in the afternoon with an increase in coverage this evening, as an organized area of storms moves out the the Texas Panhandle. #okwx #texomawx pic.twitter.com/q8WpDmXnHu
— NWS Norman (@NWSNorman) June 2, 2023
Could heat exhaustion get as bad this year as it did last year?
Paluka said EMSA, as a precautionary measure, regularly keeps teams on standby at the Women’s College World Series, and so far the emergency technicians haven’t had to respond to high numbers of heat-related calls.
That was also the day temperatures reached 93 degrees in Oklahoma City.
McManus remembered a similar pattern emerged in 2022, where the metro began seeing highs in the 90s merely one day after the games had ended.
“It’s odd that you can pinpoint the beginning of a flash drought in Oklahoma, but that’s exactly what we had happen last year,” McManus said.
Oklahoma City saw historic heights of triple-digit temperatures in the summer of 2022, and experts hope that doesn’t repeat this year.
Heat exhaustion vs heat stroke: How to recognize warnings signs and tips to keep cool
“It’s very much going to be a summer pattern,” Zwink said of the expected weather during the rest of the tournament. “We’re looking at a lot of our moisture in the atmosphere, with no cold fronts to move all of that moisture out. It’s hard to predict where the storms are going to pick up, but we do expect those isolated showers to come and go in the afternoons.”
Both Zwink and McManus advised residents to stay weather-aware at all times, given the climate trends of recent years.
“All of the rain that’s supposed to be happening right now could be turned against us if the sun comes back and evaporates all of that moisture, which is what happened last year,” McManus said. “Heat and drought work hand in hand to feed off each other, but if you can keep the soils moist, you can keep that heat down during the summer.”
What are ways to stay cool while outside in the heat?
EMSA offers several recommendations on how to stay cool during the Women's College World Series:
Pre-hydrate by drinking plenty of water and electrolytes 24 hours before prolonged exposure to summer heat.
Stay away from alcohol and caffeine.
Find shade while outdoors.
Wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing.
Remain considerate of children and older adults, who are most vulnerable during the summer.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Softball fans face high temps. Are they getting hotter this year?