As temperatures soared into the record books Thursday, the sidewalks of downtown Fort Wayne were strangely devoid of people.
Those few who could be seen seemed to be in limbo – trying to move slowly in the unrelenting oven the atmosphere had become, yet also in a hurry to get out of the frying pan as quickly as possible.
Some were unable to deal with the extreme heat: Parkview Hospital treated one patient who came in about 3 p.m. with heat-related symptoms, spokesman John Perlich said. The Lutheran Hospital system did not see anyone with heat stroke or heat exhaustion, spokeswoman Lizette Downey said, but Michael Gillespie, spokesman for the Three Rivers Ambulance Authority, said at least 25 percent of Thursday's medical calls were due to the heat. So far this year, the number of heat-related calls is up 200 percent compared with 2011, he said.
Here are some snapshots from around Fort Wayne on a day that not soon forgotten:
Wild critters, part 1
You're hot. The kids are hot, and the family dog thinks the cool kitchen floor is his own private domain.
You know who else is hot? The birds, they're hot. The butterflies? Yep, hot too.
Lynsey White Dasher, an urban wildlife specialist at the Humane Society of the United States, thinks it would be pretty nice to take all God's creatures into consideration when the thermometer gets this hot, or when we don't have any rain.
Even in the cities, there are small critters – raccoons, chipmunks, possums, birds and honeybees – that have lost their habitats to development. And when already-scarce resources become even harder to come by, the animals, birds and insects around your home may become more aggressive in their efforts to find food or water.
If they're running out of their natural sources of food, then they may be coming in a little bit closer to our neighborhoods and houses, she said.
White Dasher suggested ways to make your yard more wildlife friendly, especially when it's hot and dry out: put up birdbaths; make mud puddles for butterflies to use; put in a small pond for toads and other amphibians; don't put out pet or human food, as it attracts unwanted visitors like coyotes and raccoons.
A new kind of hero
It wasn't torture, but you could call it cruel and unusual punishment.
As temperatures soared to 106 degrees Thursday, Kyle Devivo found himself installing an air conditioner. In a pool house. Right near a pool he couldn't jump in.
But by the end of the day, Devivo, a Doc Dancer Heating and Air Conditioning employee, said he was just as drenched as he would have been had he simply taken a dive into the water.
"It's like jumping in a pool without getting wet," he said of day.
Thursday was one of many recent busy days at Doc Dancer, which dispatched dozens of installers and technicians across the city to fix or install cooling systems. At least 50 or 60 calls had been made to the company by 3:30 p.m., according to Doc Dancer President Bill Berning Jr. But he expected another wave of ringing phones after 5 p.m., when people returned to find their AC had gone bust.
Wild critters, part 2
For the giraffes and zebras at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo, Thursday's heat was par for the course.
They are, after all, native to the African plains, where temperatures are often hot.
But for some of the other animals, days like Wednesday can be quite long, so zoo staff worked hard to make everyone as comfortable as possible, said Cheryl Piropato, the zoo's education and communications director.
That meant giving them access to their night quarters if they didn't want to be outside. Some animals had sprinklers; others got fans.
And all animals had all-the-time access to water.
Some of them were actually immersing themselves uncharacteristically, like the wallaby she saw earlier sitting in the drinking pool, Piropato said.
Apparently caring, the honey badger, too, was sitting in the drinking pool.
Staff members made huge blocks of ice filled with treats and food such as raisins and nuts. The animals could then spend all day licking the ice in anticipation of the treat, Piropato said.
The nearly 5-month old dingo pups had their kibble frozen in ice blocks, so they were happy to munch on frozen food all day, she said.
So hot you could …
As temperatures rise, so does the crime rate, according to statistics from the FBI.
Jerry McKean, a criminal justice professor at Ball State University, believes there is a direct correlation between the increase of violent acts and hot weather.
"It's called the aggravation hypothesis," McKean said. "Heat is a form of stress. Any time humans are in stress, they react with aggression."
McKean said one factor that contributes to more crimes being reported in the summertime is that teenagers and other young people – who are more likely to be victims or perpetrators of crimes – are out of school.
Plus, more people are outside. With vacations, more homes are vacant and ripe for burglaries.
But, McKean said, there does seem to be a cap on crime caused by the heat. What temperature that is researchers don't really know for sure, he said.
"It just gets too hot to do much of anything," he said.
Big house/hot house
If the heat does drive you to crime, consider this:
It's bad enough to be locked up in the clink, but the conditions in parts of the Allen County Jail were worse than usual as confinement officers and inmates alike had to deal with an air conditioning system that would work one day, then go on the fritz the next.
But maintenance workers found a way to get the air conditioning working full time before the 106-degree heat took hold Thursday.
"We're keeping our fingers crossed," said Capt. Ron Rayl of the Allen County Sheriff's Department. "At this second, it is working."
Rayl said about 10 cell blocks in the jail were affected by the lack of air conditioning. During one recent visit to the jail, the temperature reading in one of these blocks was 94 degrees, he said.
The affected blocks were part of the jail that was built in 1982. Maintenance workers had to bypass a sensor problem in the system to get the air working again, according to Rayl.
They say being a bicycle courier is a dangerous business, and Thursday it was a hot job, too.
At 2:30 p.m., the temperature was 101, and Clay Butler, who delivers sandwiches by bicycle for Jimmy Johns downtown, had just returned from a delivery on his fixed-gear bike. A fixie is a bike whose pedals never stop revolving, so you can't stop pedaling and coast when you're hot on a 100-degree day.
Butler didn't seem too bothered by the heat, though.
"You drink a little more water," and he'd brought a bottle of Gatorade to work, he said. "You have to go a little slower. I don't think they like it, but …"
Butler, who races, had already ridden 55 miles Thursday morning before work, so a 2-mile jaunt on his bike didn't seem too troublesome, even at 101 degrees.
Texas always hotter
Just beyond the chain link fence were the sounds – the sweet, sweet sounds – of cool, splashing water. But there sat Jared Kuck outside Northside Park's swimming pool, with no inclination to go inside. Instead, he was watching a friend's gear, waiting to get back on his skateboard.
"I'm not much of a swimmer," Kuck said. "But it's never too hot for skateboarding."
He had no shirt but wore full-length jeans, despite the heat.
"It's hot, don't get me wrong," said Kuck, 23. "But it's not the worst I've been in. I was in Texas a month ago, and it was 50 times worse than this."
Relax for a reason
It appeared just like any backdoor barbecue: kids were playing in the pool, burgers were on the grill and pasta salad was chilled on ice.
Only at this event most of the hosts wore blue polo shirts sporting the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health logo, with a few more hosts in city fire uniforms.
The event may have offered food and fun, but it also had a purpose: ensuring people stay safe during the summer heat.
Ann Applegate, director of the health department's food and consumer protection division, said it is vital to keep hot foods hot – grilled to the appropriate internal temperature – and cold foods cold – which is why the salad was on ice. Applegate's parents hosted the event at their northeast Fort Wayne home.
Other tips for people included staying hydrated by drinking water and avoiding caffeinated and alcoholic drinks, wearing – at least – SPF 15 sunscreen and taking rests to avoid exhaustion. The kids even served as examples to ensure children are watched carefully around water.
Residents were also told not to grill in the yard to ensure the grill is on a stable surface and to prevent grass from catching fire during the drought.
Some grass greener
Not far from Northside's pool stood Todd, who didn't want to give his full name for fear of embarrassing his employer – the employer whose broken down truck had left Todd stranded in the heat for an hour Thursday afternoon.
He had been mowing lawns all day, until the truck died between jobs: People who water their grass have grass that keeps growing, even in this.
"I was trying to get 'em done today – it didn't work out too well," Todd said.
He had water with him, and he's used to being outside in the hot weather.
"I'm not even sweating," he said, leaning against the black truck in the sun. "But my wife's coming to rescue me."
Truly Regal cookies
It's an age-old question asked every time it gets record-breaking, sweat-with-every-step-you-take hot out:
Can you bake cookies on the dashboard of a 2001 Buick Regal?
The Journal Gazette tried just that Thursday, putting a batch of raw cookies on some tinfoil and parking the car in the sun from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
And while the results didn't produce stellar-looking cookies, they seemed to be a minor hit in the newsroom.
Theresa Kacmarik, who owns the Cookie Cottage in Fort Wayne with her sister, Maureen, laughed at the newspaper's attempt to bake sweets in the sun. She said temperatures in a hot car probably couldn't rise high enough to bake the cookies before they melted.
Still, she consulted cookie experts at her shop for tips on how it might work better.
"Maybe take the aluminum foil and curve it, so it's shaped like a bowl," Kacmarik said. "It might reflect more heat onto them."
Jeff Wiehe, Dan Stockman, Rebecca S. Green, Devon Haynie, Benjamin Lanka and Frank Gray of The Journal Gazette contributed to these stories.