Writer’s Block: Safety First

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

Like a lot of people, I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of the USS Independence, which was set to pass by Isla Blanca Park as it was towed to the Port of Brownsville for dismantling.

And, like a lot of people, I kept myself up-to-date with its expected arrival time via social media. I started to get a little worried when I saw that its initial date of arrival had been postponed from Tuesday morning to Thursday afternoon.

The afternoon arrival time gave me mixed feelings. On the one hand, it meant I’d be free to take my time soaking in the occasion. On the other, I worried what the afternoon sun would be like.

Sure, we’ve been getting some rain recently and it’s been a big help in cooling things down, but the showers had been occurring mostly in the overnight or morning hours. And as any local can tell you, if you don’t like the weather in Texas, just a wait an hour because it’s sure to change. You could wake up to a blistering heat one morning and then need a sweater by the time you step outside to grab lunch.

The reverse can also be true. Cool, rain-washed mornings can give way to scorching afternoons. Such was the case Thursday. The skies were clear and pale, their azure blue tinged with the white of brightest sunlight filtered through the water vapor left suspended in the air after the rains.

Those conditions combined to make it a hot, humid day. Despite that, I was still hopeful that the cool Gulf breeze, blowing unfettered across the jetties, and my oversized bottle of ice cold Gatorade would be enough to battle the heat.

I was wrong.

I’d been making my way along the jetties talking to people, asking veterans about their experiences aboard the ship, while we waited for the Indy to come into view. It was after several conversations that my cameras and bag started to feel unusually heavy and I felt like I couldn’t properly focus my eyes. I soon realized I was beginning to feel the effects of heat exhaustion.

I made my way to a concession stand and bought some chilled water bottles and rested for a while in the shade. A few minutes after I ventured back outside I realized I wasn’t quite as recovered as I thought. Providence must’ve been on my side, though, because it was at that moment that I nearly miraculously came into the care of a couple who kindly gave me a lift back to my car in their golf cart.

With the sudden glut of traffic all trying to leave Isla Blanca Park at once, it took me about 30 minutes to get back to the mainland. I set my car’s a/c to max and sat relishing the arctic air against my skin. When I reached up to touch my cheek, though, it felt like I was on fire. It took maybe another hour, and a LOT more cold water before I started to feel anything like normal again.

I’ve written columns before about how important it is to know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. But, with as often as my job takes me outdoors, and as acclimated to this climate as I used to think I was, I never thought my own knowledge would be put to the test.

But, it was. And, thankfully, I recognized the signs before it was too late. I hope my experiences can serve as a warning to others. Stay safe out there, my friends.

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