Cooler temperatures won't arrive until the weekend as prep football teams prepare for heat

Aug. 24—A cool front expected to end several days of feels-like high temperatures above 100 won't arrive in time to provide relief for local football players as the high school season kicks off Thursday and Friday, according to the National Weather Service in Huntsville.

"Friday will be 105 to 109 degrees with the heat index in the afternoon," said meteorologist Andy Kula. The weather service issued a heat advisory for the area that continues through 8 p.m. Friday, with the cool front not expected to arrive until Saturday night or early Sunday.

The actual temperature reached 99 in Decatur on Wednesday, and the heat index climbed as high as 112, according to weather service data.

High school football teams have various plans for coping with the heat. Some local schools have decided to delay kickoff by a half hour to an hour, which the Alabama High School Athletic Association permits. Hartselle High School's football team will use several methods to keep players cool for its game at Austin High School on Friday at 7 p.m.

"We're fine starting at 7," said Hartselle City Schools Athletic Director Pat Smith. "Austin High is good starting at 7. On that turf field, it's not going to be a ton cooler at 7:30 or 8 than it is at 7."

Smith said since his school system doesn't have air-conditioned buses, Coach Bryan Moore will be chartering air-conditioned buses to keep his players cool on the way to Decatur.

"Of course, we're following the guidelines of the AHSAA on taking heat breaks and doing the right things with the heat index where it's been this week at practice," Smith added.

Hartselle's team also plans on bringing cooling fans to the stadium, according to Smith.

"You can pour ice and water into a bin in the back of (the fans) and it helps blow that cool air across whoever is sitting in front of them," he said.

During the game, Smith said officials plan on following AHSAA guidelines on water breaks.

"We've got our trainers with us and will certainly provide all our kids with water," he said. "We'll do all we can to help them."

Smith, who played for Auburn under Coach Pat Dye in the early 1990s, is no stranger to playing sports in the heat.

"Heat index was about 115 degrees my freshman year for the first two weeks," he said.

The AHSAA offers recommended activity modifications for practice by student athletes in hot environments. A heat index of 91 to 103 degrees is categorized as "moderate" risk level. AHSAA recommends coaches limit football practice to two hours and players only use helmets, shorts and shoulder pads.

A heat index of 103 to 125 degrees is categorized as "high" risk. AHSAA recommends a maximum practice time of one hour and helmets only in these conditions.

During games, the AHSAA "has mandated that heat timeouts be called during the first dead-ball period after the six-minute mark in each of the four periods," according to a memo by AHSAA Assistant Director Jeff Segars. The AHSAA allows game times to be changed as long as both schools are in agreement; however, no new quarters may begin after midnight.

The mandatory heat timeouts will be in effect until Sept. 15, according to the memo. Additionally, a referee may grant a heat timeout anytime during the contest.

"Honestly, anything over 102 or 103 degrees is going to be a strain on the body if you're outside for any length of time," said Kula. "Then, when it gets up to that 110 or higher range, it doesn't take long to cause issues for folks.

Kula said the high without the heat index is expected to reach 98 to 99 degrees on Friday.

"By Sunday, the highs will still be in the lower to mid 90s, and then by Monday we drop to around 90," he said. "It will be kind of a gradual cooling, and then by Tuesday maybe 80s for the high."

Kula added that the humidity is also expected to drop going into next week, although there is a low chance of showers and thunderstorms on Monday and Tuesday. or 256-340-2438.