It’s the heat AND the humidity: Summer temps in the 100s bear down on Eastern US

By Bruce Shipkowski, AP
Saturday, July 24, 2010

Eastern US cooks in summer heat, temps reach 100s

TOMS RIVER, N.J. — Another wave of oppressive heat clamped down on a broad swath of Eastern states on Saturday, with temperatures in the high 90s and 100s and residents scrambling for shade or just staying indoors.

In the Mid-Atlantic, already the locus for brutal temperatures several times in July, weather experts warned of the dangerous conditions and residents resigned themselves to coping with the discomfort.

“Oh, it’s disgusting. It’s already really hot,” meteorologist Heather Sheffield of the National Weather Service said of morning temperatures in Washington, D.C.

One possible weather-related death was reported in Maryland, where paramedics said the high temperatures and humidity likely played a role in the death of a 20-year-old man who was biking, went into cardiac arrest and hit his head on a tree as he fell.

With the heat and humidity combining for a possible heat index of over 110 degrees, the weather service issued an excessive heat warning for the first time this year for an area stretching from south of Washington to north of Baltimore, along the Interstate 95 corridor. By midday Saturday, a wide band from lower New England to the Deep South was under a heat advisory.

The thermometer hit 100 degrees in Washington and Baltimore by mid-afternoon, where the heat index was 109. In Norfolk, Va., it was 104 degrees and 108 degrees with the heat index. Elsewhere, record highs for July 24 of 97 degrees in New York and Philadelphia and 99 degrees in Newark, N.J., were reported.

As temperatures soared toward 100 degrees in New Jersey, Harry Oliver was trying to make sense of it all as he waited to get sandwiches inside a Toms River convenience store.

“When I complain about the heat and humidity, my wife reminds me that I was begging for this type of weather when I was shoveling all that snow this past winter,” the 47-year-old Lakehurst resident said. “Now I’m looking forward to the snow again.”

Oliver said he and his wife didn’t want to cook. “It’s hot enough in the house already, even with my air conditioning running 24/7,” he said.

In New York City, the heat brought out the inner entrepreneur in one resident.

A.J. Ousmane, 27, a native of the West African nation of Mali, sold ice-cold water bottles for $1 from a cooler on a Harlem sidewalk. He planned to stay out all afternoon, and hoped to make about $55 for the day, after expenses.

“I keep moving with the shade,” he said, as he positioned himself in the creeping shadow of a coin-operated laundry.

Poolside, 20-year-old Meredith Watkins slathered herself with SPF 15 and filled her water bottle before working a shift as a lifeguard in suburban Columbus, Ohio. Watkins scouted the swimming pool for an excuse to jump in — something she says she does at least once an hour on hot days.

“You still gotta do your job when it’s this hot,” she said, twirling a whistle on a red lanyard. “Especially with the humidity, it makes it awful. You just sit there and sweat and sweat.”

Kristin Kline, a weather service meteorologist at Mount Holly, N.J., said this summer hasn’t been “record-setting hot” in most places. The off-and-on scorching heat that’s been felt in the Mid-Atlantic can be blamed on “a Bermuda high” between Bermuda and North Carolina that is pushing hot, humid air into the region, Kline said.

In Pennsylvania, Louie Correa, 55, of Louie’s Appliances was out trundling a fan and a kitchen table into a South Philadelphia home. He said that earlier in the day, he had been by the homes of some older residents to make sure they were all right.

“Sometimes they see me knocking on the door, and the neighbors say ‘What you want there?’ Like this morning, I said ‘Oh, just making sure Miss Regina is all right,’ ‘Just making sure Frank is all right,’” Correa said.

While temperatures climbed, Jason Wish dabbed a sweaty T-shirt on his brow as he loaded crates of tomatoes and bushels of peppers into a truck at a farmer’s market in suburban Columbus, Ohio. He and dozens of other farmhands hurried to pack up their produce and escape to air-conditioned vans and pickups.

“It makes me wanna jump in the pond and go swimming,” Wish said.

Many hit the beach for relief, though not all were there to soak up the sun.

Jeff Clarkson, 47, and his 12-year-old son Chuck planned to hit the arcades along the Point Pleasant area boardwalk in New Jersey.

“I don’t want him out there too long ’cause it could be dangerous,” said the elder Clarkson, whose family was visiting from suburban Philadelphia. “But in here, we can spend time together and stay kind of cool, though it’s likely to cost me a lot of money by the time we’re through.”

Not much relief was in the forecast Sunday. Sunday’s highs were expected to reach into the low- to mid-90s, but heat indices should be slightly lower — in the high 90s, possibly as high as 101 in cities.

Associated Press writers Jessica Gresko and Kathleen Miller in Washington, D.C., Verena Dobnik in New York City, Ron Todt in Philadelphia, and Jeannie Nuss in Columbus, Ohio., contributed to this story.

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