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Even ‘hoppers flee heat in Dixie

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It's so hot in southern Utah that even the grasshoppers are hunting for shade.

Every morning, when Jason Estridge arrives at the Burger King he manages in St. George, the heat is already so fierce that grasshoppers have taken shelter on the sides of the building that are away from the sun. Thousands of them cover the wall.Estridge uses a broom to sweep them away "because it just looks nasty," he said.

"It's hotter than swat. I hate it," he added.

Nature's oven has forced many to stay inside with the air conditioner turned up. By 6 a.m., St. George is already hot. Between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m., Estridge added, St. George Boulevard - busy at other times of the year - is empty.

The Burger King has few customers during the hot hours. "No one is out eating," he said. But starting around sunset, St. Georgians emerge for a while and business is hopping for a couple of hours.

"It's just typical," said William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service regional center in Salt Lake City. The high temperatures in southern Utah are not unusually hot, he said.

The thermometer has been peaking lately at 105 degrees in St. George and 106 degrees in Moab, he said.

True, it is summer. True, you should expect to roast in Utah's Dixie during this season. Yet while it really isn't unusual, to some folks who grew accustomed to the long, cool spring, 105 degrees is still scorching.

St. George residents, contacted by telephone Thursday, had varying reactions to the heat:

- Laura Gentry, working in Dick's Cafe, noted that in the mornings, "it's beautiful and cool." As the sun climbs, she said, "It gets very hot and miserable."

Making the summer heat even less palatable by contrast, according to Gentry, is that southern Utah had a cool spring.

The local people know what to expect, but St. George gets thousands of tourists - some of whom are unprepared for the scorching temperatures.

- At Dixie Regional Medical Center, a nurse said the 100-degree-plus temperatures had only continued for a few days so far, and she knew of no heat exhaustion cases yet. But as the Fourth of July weekend continues, she said, people will be outside more and there may be some heat-induced illness.

- Does the hot weather bother Jody Barton of St. George's Budget Inn? "Heck no, after that cold winter I'm enjoying it. I'm never complaining."

- At two air-conditioning firms, nobody was surprised about the temperatures. "It usually gets this hot down here," noted a woman at A-John's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning.

- "Well, (it's) no hotter than usual during the summer," agreed an employee of the St. George Police Department.

- Avon Von Lentner, who runs Handyman Service with her husband, Dietmar, said the two often work outside in the sun. She is convinced that the heat is even worse than reported. "It's 110 in the shade, in the cool side of the building, or more," she said.

While working outside, she and her husband stay in the shade whenever they can. Even there, they wear hats against the glare of the sunlight.

If the heat gets too awful when they're working, Van Lentner said, "we just hose ourselves off," using the yard's hose.

"We put it over our heads and let it run down and even get our clothes wet. And then, in a few minutes, we're dry. At least it cools us off and keeps the temperature down."

The only thing they need to combat the heat is "lots of water," she said.