Carriage horses near limit for heat

Carriage horses and mules were close to being taken off the streets in Charleston on Wednesday as heat pushed toward the mandated 98-degree limit.

Horses and mules that pull the carriages for scenic Charleston rides were close to being pulled off the street Thursday afternoon, as the heat climbed to the danger point.

About the same heat and humidity were expected Friday, said meteorologist Emily Timte, National Weather Service, Charleston.

The animals are taken off the street when the temperature hits 98 degrees or the heat index reaches 125, said Davida Allen, city tourism manager. Her department is alerted when the temperature reaches 95. By 4:30 p.m. it had climbed a degree beyond it, she said.

Heat indices had reached or passed 110 degrees at several sites in the metro area but weren't near 125 degrees, Timte said.

More than 150 horses and mules are rotated for the job by the five companies that run tours downtown. Tom Doyle, of Palmetto Carriage, said the companies closely watch the animals when the heat rises, but the animals themselves will drink more water.

Meanwhile, business drops off with the heat and the demand on the animals slows. Doyle extends the breaks between tours from the mandated 15 minutes to 30, he said.

"I have more trouble (with the heat) with the drivers than I do with the animals, frankly," he said.