Just after 8am, when temperatures are already reaching 80F, Mark Jalufka arrives at Sam’s Club to pick up 20 cases of bottled water.
Jalufka is the general manager of the Lions Club Tube Rental in San Marcos, Texas. Every day during the summer, he rents inflatable inner tubes to hundreds of Texans looking to cool off in the spring-fed San Marcos River. He and his staff work outside all day, and that means he needs lots of water.
“The whole idea is keep ’em safe,” Jalufka said.
The river stays a cool 72F (22.2C) year-round, even as outdoor temperatures soared over 100F (37.8C) this week. On a weekday, he’ll rent about 200 tubes. On the weekend, it’s more like 900. That doesn’t include the people who rent tubes from his competitors, or those who bring their own.
On any given summer day – and especially when it’s hot, like this week – thousands of Texans will flock to the state’s spring-fed rivers and float. Many bring along coolers with water, but also beers and picnic snacks to spend all day in the chilly river.
Extreme heat gripped the state this week, with record highs throughout the southern US. In some parts of Texas, the heat index reached as high as 117F. Similar heat killed at least 279 people in the state last year, according to analysis from the Texas Tribune, and hundreds of heat-related emergency room visits were reported this month.
Such extreme heatwaves will become more frequent as a result of climate change, said Andrew Dessler, a professor at Texas A&M University and director of the Texas Center for Climate Studies.
“Climate is the average of the weather. When the weather changes, the climate changes. When the climate changes, the weather changes,” Dessler said. “Climate change just amplifies it, takes a hot event and makes it worse.”
Ercot is funded by the Republican-controlled state government, which has pushed against using climate science to inform public policy. Earlier this year, the state legislature passed a so-called “Death Star” bill, which eliminated the power of its liberal-leaning cities to enforce modest regulations, such as mandated water breaks for construction workers. Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill last week, even as temperatures soared.
As temperatures hit 90F, men with refrigerated push-carts line up outside Dallas’ paleterías – Latino-owned ice cream shops – to stock up on frozen treats. The paleteros spend all day outside, pushing their carts through neighborhoods to sell popsicles and other Mexican-style ice cream.
“It’s very hard for them to stay cool because it is so hot outside,” said Araceli Ramirez.
Ramirez works at Paleteria Y Neveria Mexico in the historically working-class, Latino neighborhood of West Dallas. Even on the hottest days of the summer, paleteros come to the shop before heading out into the street, carrying lots of water, Gatorade or Pedialyte to stay hydrated.
The heat isn’t their only concern, either. Their cash-only business makes paleteros an easy target for mugging and theft. Add in a deadly heatwave, and being a popsicle man can be dangerous.