On a day like Tuesday, when temperatures in Ashland spiked at a record 101 degrees Fahrenheit, the last thing a person should be doing is spending any length of time exposed to the sun. If one must, however, they should definitely avoid strenuous physical activity.
Not everybody has a choice, however. Take Kyle Furrow, 32, whose job forced him, under the unrelenting glare of the afternoon sun, to break the first two rules as well as a third: If working in the sun is unavoidable, maybe don’t do it on a hot tar roof that absorbs the sun’s rays, thereby raising the surface temperature by 15 to 20 degrees.
Furrow works for Evergreen Roofing, which has a crew replacing the roof of a Southern Oregon University building adjacent to Raider Stadium as part of the school’s athletic facility renovation. Decked out in hard hats, safety vests, T-shirts and jeans, Furrow and his co-workers were using tear-off shovels Tuesday to scrape away the many layers of the old roof in preparation for the new one. It’s exhausting work on a mild day, and nothing about Tuesday was mild.
“Definitely radiating heat coming off the ground,” said Furrow, describing the experience as a jackhammer rattled away in the distance, “because of all the different materials you use on a roof — like asphalt, hot tar. We usually just get a tear-off shovel with teeth on it and try and get underneath all the layers because a hot roof has different layers, about seven. You just gotta get underneath all the layers and scrape up all the way down to the deck.”
The good news, says Furrow, is that Evergreen Roofing is lenient when it comes to allowing its employees to adjust to the conditions, something he says has not always been the case at other roofing companies for which he’s worked. Furrow says his two 15-minute breaks and 30-minute lunch can be — in fact, usually are — extended, and employees are encouraged to stop and drink water as often as they need to.
That kind of freedom isn’t possible in some professions, however. For actors taking the stage for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, for instance, the show must go on no matter how mighty the sun’s glare becomes.
OSF actor Tatiana Lofton was well aware of the commitment before she joined the festival last season, but the age old mantra was certainly hammered home last summer during a red-hot performance of “The Wiz” in the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre. As part of the ensemble, Lofton, 24, said she had about 10 dance numbers, including one that went on for a stifling seven minutes to kick off the show.
“So that was definitely when I was like, ‘Oh, I could cry right now,’ ” she said. “On the inside I’m crying, and on the outside I’m smiling and trying to … dance my hardest.”
As hard as that was, Lofton is anticipating a much greater challenge tonight, when she and the rest of the Beauty and the Beast cast take the stage starting at 8 p.m. in the Elizabethan Theatre. The forecast calls for a high of 104 degrees — another record — which means the temperature at the start of the show will be just a shade under 100.
Sometimes, the ensemble doesn’t make an appearance until later in the show, after temperatures have died down a tad, but anybody who’s watched any of the musical iterations of Belle’s journey from free spirit to prisoner to lion tamer knows that B&B begins with a big musical number.
In fact, Lofton says, she’ll be on stage in a full, heavy dress, complete with petticoat, for at least the first 20 minutes.
Which is why she may be only half joking when she talks of dressing down for tonight’s performance.
“I’m going to bring some shorts and I’m going to bring my sneakers and I’m going to put that on and I’m going to see how far it gets me before 8 o’clock comes,” she said, laughing.
But seriously, she says, the cast may have to find creative ways to stay cool.
“We talked to them so hopefully they’re really thinking about it, just because it’s really, really too hot,” Lofton said. “And the dressers, they’re the best. The people who help us put our clothes on and stuff, they always will listen to us when we talk about how hot it is. They’ll give us rags to wear over our necks when we’re off stage. They’ll try to figure out a way to put ice packs in your costume. They didn’t design the costume so they are really in between the performers and the costume designers, trying to figure out the best thing for running the show for us.”
Not everybody toiling away in the sun Tuesday necessarily had to be there, but Adam Pearson, 38, didn’t have much choice.
A general contractor who owns and runs Classic Craftsman, Pearson lived in Ashland for years before recently relocating to Portland. Now, he and his wife want to sell their home on Garfield Street like yesterday, and even a historic heat wave wasn’t a good enough excuse for Pearson to delay the final, grueling step in his home renovation — painting the exterior.
“All day long we pretty much just chase the shade,” said Pearson, sporting an SOU Raiders ball cap, polo shirt and khaki shorts, “because if you have the direct sun where you’re working it just gums stuff up. So we just adjust.”
The other half of Pearson’s “we” is Jon-o Gassman, a 17-year-old Medford resident who played center field for the North Medford Mavericks, an American Legion A baseball team. After a summer spent chasing fly balls and running bases during five-hour doubleheaders, Gassman said Tuesday’s job wasn’t so bad.
“I’m really hot and sweaty,” he said, “but luckily I’m power washing so I’m soaking wet.”
Across the street from Pearson and Gassman, the newly renovated Garfield Park was hopping. As former Ashland High star basketball player Georgia Williams shot hoops with her dad, local police officer Malcus Williams, a crowd of about 70 kids — babies up to teenagers — played in the park and on the splash pad.
One of those kids, Obadiah Whalen, celebrated his first birthday (“Obi-one”, read the birthday invitation) by sitting in the grass and examining his gifts, which included a ball and a book titled, “Five Little Monkeys.”
Travis Whalen, Obadiah’s dad, said the party was originally scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m., but he and his wife Brianna called a last-minute audible when they learned how hot it was going to get. That’s not the only adjustment the Ashland couple has made in response to the heat. Today, they’re heading to Medford to stay, and sleep, at his parents’ house.
“Which is actually hotter,” Whalen said, referring to Medford’s forecast today of 114 degrees, “but what we have in Medford is a big backyard, which we will spend the morning in. We have some pretty heavy duty totes that we fill with cold water and they jump in there and love that, splash around. And for us, we’ll be hanging out inside.”
Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-821-0829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Joe_Zavala99.