By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
If you’ve been outside during the daytime at all this past week, then you’ll have realized we are well and truly into the dog days of summer. There’s only one word one can use to describe the weather: hot.
Actually, I can think of a few others: sweltering, scorching, brutal, hellish, relentless, unpleasant and humid. We’ve seen record temperatures all across the Rio Grande Valley, and even here along the coast, where things tend to stay a few degrees cooler thanks to that gulf breeze, heat indices have risen into the triple digits. Even if the mercury says it’s only in the upper 80s or lower 90s in Port Isabel or on South Padre Island, it feels a lot more like 100-105 degrees.
Like I said, it’s hot. Very hot.
Even once the sun goes down, the heat lingers, the air simmering like a wet blanket pulled out of the dryer too soon.
And making things worse has been the Saharan dust that’s blown across the Atlantic and settled over our skies over the past couple of weeks. I was out at the beach at dawn last week and the dust was so thick, especially along the horizon, that the rising sun was nothing more than a dull yellow-grey disc floating above the waves. Instead of rays of golden light glittering off the wave caps like millions of sparkling sequins, the early morning light was feeble and wan, the waves crashing ashore almost looked brown in the muddy light.
I’m not sure how much longer this heat will last, but I hope things cool down soon. Meanwhile, it’ll be the dog days of summer — or La Canicula as many folks here in the Valley refer to it — for a couple more weeks yet.
Most everyone knows that the dog days of summer is that period of time in late summer when the days seem to be the hottest, but what people may not be aware of is that this time period has little to do with man’s best friend.
According to The Farmer’s Almanac, the dog days weren’t named for our favorite four-legged companions, they were actually named after the stars. It’s during the dog days that the star Sirius and the constellation Canus Major rise above the horizon at the same time as the sun. For the United States, that means that this year’s “dog days” run from about July 3 – Aug. 11.
Ancient Egyptians noticed that the Nile River’s annual floods tended to take place around this time of year. Meanwhile, the Romans believed that Sirius — rising and setting at the same time as the sun during this time of the year — lent its heat to the sun, which was why the dog days were so hot.
Even though I know there isn’t a grain of truth to that second theory, it’s easy to see why the Romans thought so. Because, in case I haven’t mentioned it enough times already: it’s hot.
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