I asked again and again Tuesday of people who had to be out in the heat because if they weren't it meant no money: "Hot enough for ya?"
A genius, me.
York County didn't break the record of 103 degrees set in 1926, or the forecast of 101 or hotter, but the temperature reached a brutal 99 at the Rock Hill/York County Airport at 2:13 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.
At about that time, I yelled out the car window to a group of guys putting down stripes on a York County road. The heat radiated off the pavement. One guy had a towel over his head, under his hard hat. His eyes were slits.
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"Hot enough for ya?" I bellow.
What he said cannot be printed in this family newspaper, but it was clear I asked the dumbest question anybody asked him on Tuesday.
The high is supposed to be in the lower 90s or upper 80s for the next several days, but that didn't help Tuesday.
It had to be hotter 126 feet closer to the blazing sun. That's where the "Tower Dogs" of a company called Water Tower Services were working Tuesday afternoon, right there on Herlong Avenue, where any mention of a breeze was a lie.
"Hot up there, huh?" I yelled to Cole Dembs and Dwayne Bowman, gutsy, hot guys installing cell phone repeaters on that city water tower with the flower on it. "Gotta drink a lot of water to keep from getting a sunstroke, I bet?"
If Bowman had the chance, certainly he would have smashed me in the head with a cell phone, repeater, wrench, or anything else handy.
"You should have seen it yesterday. I was welding up there on the catwalk," Dembs said. "Now that was hot."
Chad Payne, the owner of the company, said they can't com-plain. "It's hotter when we have to go inside towers, sandblast 'em and clean 'em," he said.
It was 97 degrees on the ground. I swooned with the heat and didn't volunteer to go up in the "spider basket," a gondola-like thing that rappels the guys and materials skyward, to check the heat up there.
On Columbia Avenue, the smell of concrete attracted me. Usually, I run the other way because concrete means manual labor. I found Lucio Hernandez working a power finisher on a concrete slab.
"Hot?" I asked Hernandez.
He said nothing. He sweated, a lot. He and the other guys in the crew had water, sports drinks, anything to keep cool, by the gallons.
"Sun means money," said Antonio Rincon.
Anybody with sense or options fled the heat Tuesday. These guys worked extra.
Through Tuesday afternoon, Piedmont Medical Center had seen just five cases of heat-related illness in the Emergency Room, most related to outdoor work. None were serious enough to require the patient be admitted, said Myra Joines, hospital spokeswoman.
On Rock Hill's York Avenue, a city crew had to fix a sewer line. Replace the residential line from a spot where it was cracked all the way to the tap-in under the street. That meant dig 9 feet in a trench. What they found was not pleasant when it was 99 degrees.
"Hot and nasty," said T.J. Nivens, who ought to be a speechwriter for McCain or Obama. He gets to the point. If something stinks, he says so.
Nivens said he's getting married in two weeks, but another guy working the sewer line, Mac Wallace, said he just got married Saturday.
He was not complaining. But maybe he shouldn't have to get married, then four days later fix a sewer line in heat that feels like a straightjacket.
Cutoffs in hot weather
It was so hot Monday and Tuesday that the city of Rock Hill and York Electric Cooperative suspended cutoffs for nonpayment of utility bills.
Rock Hill's threshold is 99 degrees or hotter, said Lisa Thompson with the city's utilities department. York Co-op's threshold is hotter than 95 degrees, said Marc Howie, member services director.
Duke Power, the area's other major electricity provider, did not suspend cutoffs locally because the heat index -- how hot it feels outside -- was not more than 105 degrees. The area between Anderson and Blacksburg and south to Whitmire and Greenwood was Duke's only service area out of six areas in both Carolinas to suspend cutoffs.
Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said on any given day, out of about 2.3 million customers, about 750 customers are scheduled for cutoff. Sheehan did not have figures available of how many cutoffs, if any, were scheduled for Tuesday in York County.
There are no state benchmarks for hot or cold temperatures for utilities to suspend cutoffs, said Dukes Scott, executive director of the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff. All utilities must file cutoff policies with that agency, but state law does not set any specific temperature or heat index, Scott said.