Melanie Hays is prepared for war.
Her bunker-like concession stand at the Gillette City Pool is brimming with more than 50 blocks of ice and several gallons of colored syrup in anticipation of scorching weather expected to begin Friday.
But she knows it probably won’t be enough.
The onslaught of parched swimmers will whittle away at her ice supply quickly.
“We watch the forecast pretty closely,” she said. “It’s going to be intense.”
Hays spent the past few days, when it was too cool for the pool to open, making as much ice as she could stuff into her freezers.
The 18-year-old has been working at the stand for the past eight summers for her family’s business. She knows when the temperature ticks above 90 degrees, she will sell a lot of snow cones.
Children and their parents will line up at the stainless steel counter during the 10-minute breaks each hour when lifeguards clear swimmers from the pool.
“When it’s hot, everybody wants snow cones,” she said. “We’re going to be running.”
She has been making blocks of ice every day by filling Laffy Taffy tubs and freezing them. But it takes two days to solidify them in the stand’s two deep-freezes. That is far too slow in the midst of a heat wave to replenish Hays’ supplies.
And a heat wave is what she faces, according to Jeff Johnson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Rapid City, S.D.
“We’ll see temperatures several days into the 90s for highs,” he said. “It’s going to be generally in the low to mid 90s.”
Sunday, the hottest day in the streak, temperatures are expected to jump to 96 degrees. That likely will be the hottest day of the year so far, Johnson said.
The sweltering heat will last at least through Thursday, but may last longer if the high-pressure system that has cleared the air decides to hang around.
In addition to the uncomfortable hot air, low humidity and no rain will come with the weather. It likely will exacerbate an already dry couple of months in Gillette that has begun to dry grasses earlier than normal.
Accumulated moisture and rain in June is an inch below normal, as of Thursday. May’s totals were 0.3 inches below normal, Johnson said.
“We’re transitioning into summer,” he said. “It’s not really that abnormal for us to get this hot in June.”
Despite the misery that surely will accompany the heat, especially inside the cement box where Hays’ concession stand is housed, she welcomes the sunny days.
“It’s nice, because it is good for business,” she said with a half-hearted smile.
She knows that the hot weather many asked for just a few months ago could be both a blessing and a curse.