I fell into a burning ring of fire


Welcome to hell, population me. As I write this, it is Sunday evening, and we have 16 minutes until a heat advisory issued Thursday for northern Mississippi by the National Weather Service in Memphis finally expires. 

Even before the directive to avoid strenuous activity and keep hydrated amid heat indices of 105 to 109 degrees, summer in Mississippi was already pretty unbearable. On one hand, I consider myself fortunate because, provided that the refrigerator is adequately stocked, my home office arrangement minimizes the need to venture out into the world. On the other, I live with the constant worry that this radical new lifestyle could render me a total shut-in, so I try to get out a couple of times during the week to run errands and such.

As a survivor of high school marching band camp and a former resident of South Florida, I thought this summer wouldn’t be such a big deal, but I thought wrong. I don’t ever recall seeing a weather advisory on the order of “you may be taking your life into your own hands if you go outside” when we lived in West Palm Beach, although in fairness I should note that each region of the country has its own standards for deciding when an advisory or a warning is necessary. When I worked in Philadelphia, for instance, it wasn’t unusual to see a handful of “excessive heat warnings” for stretches when the temperature crept above 90 or 95.

The big difference is that in Florida, we had the beach, and at least a light wind for some air circulation. Yes, footwear is a must for treading on the sand this time of year, and you might have to watch out for jellyfish, but the tradeoff is less crowded beaches with water temperatures in the 80s. Mississippi does have lakes, but they’re largely geared toward fishing and boating. If there is a lake with a swimming beach, its waters are probably infested with a brain-eating amoeba eager to take up residence in your nasal cavity, and who needs that? The saltwater pool at my apartment complex is a poor substitute for the Atlantic Ocean, especially when it’s too crowded in the pool and too hot to sit by the pool.

For the past several days, Tupelo has been trapped under a vast dome of high pressure circulating over the central and southern U.S. that the meteorologists at my husband’s TV station have been referring to as a “ring of roasting” or “ring of fire.” It looks a little something like this:


The only way it could be any worse is if we lived in the light pink region to the west, over the Delta.

With this more stagnant heat, I can feel the weight of the air as soon as I open the door. Even though I don’t have asthma or a history of allergies, breathing is a chore. God help me if I need to get in the car and go somewhere after my “work day” ends. I am too cheap to pay $100 a month for a garage space or even $25 a month for the privilege of parking in the nearest carport, so it bakes in the sun all day. By the time the air conditioning fully kicks in, I have already sweated a few buckets in the span of a minute or two.

I know my friends in the Northeast will be quick to remind me that they would take this over the average winter, and I suppose I’ll appreciate December around here a lot more. Perhaps we could boost our morale in the meantime by adopting a slogan along the lines of “Northeast Mississippi — all of Florida’s heat, none of its terrible tourism and traffic.”








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