No relief in sight

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

Bahama Babes — and the shaved ice stand’s employees — are busy these days.

The line stayed four- to five-deep through the late afternoon Friday at the stand along 14th Street in Clovis. Workers Lacey Followill and Alisa Aguilar colored ice-filled styrofoam cups with 87 flavors, ranging from cherry and lemon to margarita and wedding cake.

“Oh my goodness,” Aguilar, 16, said in regard to the stream of business. “It’s fun, but it’s crazy.”

The craziness will continue for the teens — and most everybody else in the area, as a hot July will continue through next week.

According to accuweather.com, the high temperature Friday was 99 degrees. The site says today’s highs are 104 degrees in Portales and 103 in Clovis.

National Weather Service-Albuquerque meteorologist Brent Wachter said, “You can expect to see highs from 98 degrees into the triple digits for a stint in eastern New Mexico.”

Wachter attributed the cause for above normal temperatures to a strong upper high that is parked over the area.

The upper high is like a bubble of warm air that does not allow significant changes of weather at the surface, Wachter said. He said there is sinking air found within these upper highs that prevent storms from developing.

Susan Houtchens, who has owned Dairy Queen in Portales for a dozen years, said ice cream’s popular regardless of time or economy.

“People are going to spend money on things that make them feel good,” Houtchens said. “They may do without a hot dog, but they’ll have an ice cream.”

The business sells 30 to 40 gallons of its soft-serve mix daily, which is delivered to the restaurant in liquid form. That doesn’t vary much until the winter, Houtchens said, but the business’ Arctic Rush slush and ice cream cake sales spike in the summer to help the profit margin when enrollment at Eastern New Mexico University drops over the summer.

“When school is out, it hurts all businesses,” Houtchens said. “But we’ve been staying really busy.”

Back at Bahama Babes, Followill said the noon to 9 p.m. business gets about 30 to 40 customers an hour and charges anywhere from $1 to $2.50, but that number more than doubles to 100 once happy hour (5-7 p.m.) hits and nothing’s more than $1.50.

And there are the consistent customers such as Shondel Lofton of Clovis. His cup of choice is a “suicide,” a random mix of flavors. Lofton’s sharing with friends, and he goes with a mixture of wedding cake, cherry, pickle juice and margarita.

“I don’t care what flavors I have,” Lofton said.

Another way to beat the heat — be lazy, at least for a little while. Wes Reeves, a spokesman for Xcel Energy, advised customers to avoid doing chores such as laundry and cooking with high-energy appliances during the peak hours of 4-7 p.m., when most people are getting home from work.

“All of those are your higher-usage appliances,” Reeves said. “What happens between 4 and 7 is their houses are hot, people turn their thermostats down a little more than they should. Sometimes that can cause overloads on transformers.”

There have been scattered overloads in Amarillo this week, Reeves said, as Xcel’s transformers have been operating at 5,000 megawatts, up 500-800 megawatts from June and near the company’s peak of 5,500.

— Freedom New Mexico staff writer Thomas Garcia contributed to this report.