Don Moss did the right thing. He waited until May 8, when the danger of frost had passed, to put in his annual 35 tomato plants.

Don Moss did the right thing. He waited until May 8, when the danger of frost had passed, to put in his annual 35 tomato plants.


Turns out frost is the least of his concerns.


The heat and drought are taking a toll. Moss has been getting up at 5:30 in the morning to get out and work on his plants at his Independence home and then hitting it again late in the evening after work, when the temperature has begun to fall at least some. He’s watering his plants every other day. He figures he’ll get 25 to 40 tomatoes off each – about half of the normal harvest.


About half of his plants – the lucky ones, as it turns out – get some shade, but the others are in full sun.


“The ones on the north end are going good,” he said.


He does this for fun and gives away lots of tomatoes. There have been better years.


“Four years ago,” he says, “I had a killer crop.”


This year is rough. A neighbor, he says, gave up. And Moss acknowledges the irony of things.


“The main purpose is for relaxation,” he says, “and if you’re stressing about it, it’s not worth it.”


The National Weather Service sees only limited relief for Moss and the rest of us this week. The highs today and Wednesday are expected to be around 102, and the area remains under an excessive heat warning through 7 p.m. Wednesday. The heat index could reach 110, and officials call that dangerous. People are advised to stay inside, drink plenty of water and avoid strenuous outdoor activity.


Thursday is better – a high of 91 and a 60 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. The Weather Service says thunderstorms could occur Wednesday night through Thursday night. Assuming hot days today and Wednesday, a high of 91 Thursday would break a 12-day string of highs of 96 or higher.


Then the heat starts building again: 94 Friday, 95 Saturday, 98 Sunday.


The Weather Service also points out that there’s an elevated fire danger, even with light winds, because of the dry conditions. Officials advise people to be extremely cautious with cigarettes, matches, barbecue pits and any other source of open flames or sparks.


On Monday, the Blue Springs and Grain Valley chambers of commerce emailed their members a Central Jackson County Fire Protection District poster about the fire dangers, reminding customers to keep an eye on where cigarettes and ashes land, to dispose of cigarettes and ashes in approved containers and especially to not dispose of cigarettes in mulch, plants or landscaping areas.


Also Monday, Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency related to the heat and drought. That clears the way for state agencies to help local governments in their response to the conditions.


Nixon says state health officials have confirmed 25 heat-related deaths, including 20 in the St. Louis area. Health officials report that there have been 829 heat-related trips to hospital emergency rooms.


Nixon says farmers also are facing significant losses to crop and livestock and fire remains a risk. He says state officials are monitoring how the drought is affecting public water supplies.


There is one respite today. The air quality rating for the metro area is yellow, following three straight days of orange alerts, meaning concentrations of ground-level ozone were such that those with conditions such as asthma had been advised to curtail outdoor activity. Monday was the 12th alert day so far this year.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.