‘Muggy. Icky. Sticky.’ – the heat goes on across the country
A wilting heat wave tested the endurance of people and power systems across the country Wednesday as temperatures climbed through the 90s and high humidity made it feel worse.
”It’s kind of miserable,” said Phil Smith, a ramp supervisor for a Southwest Airlines luggage crew that was lugging hundreds of suitcases around on baking tarmac at Albany International Airport in upstate New York.
The heat has been mired over parts of the Midwest and Plains since at least last week. It arrived earlier this week in the Northeast, which until this week has had a relatively mild summer.
Temperatures and humidity combined to push heat indexes to 100 degrees or above by early afternoon along the East Coast, including 116 before noon at Wrightstown, N.J.
Before the cruel sun had set, the mercury in Newark, N.J., peaked at 101 degrees, toppling a record of 97 set in 1983; in nearby New York City, a 21-year-old record fell when thermometers read 99.
”It feels like Houston,” golfer Ben Crenshaw, who lives in Austin, Texas, said at the Buick Open Pro-Am near Flint, Mich., where a record 97 degrees was posted.
On the West Coast, even northern California was roasting. The forecast high in Red Bluff, nearly 200 miles north of San Francisco, was 107.
In Chicago, at least 18 firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion after handling a truck crash that closed parts of two interstates.
The heat also baked a number of National Football League training camps, where coaches were taking more precautions following last week’s heatstroke death of Minnesota Vikings lineman Korey Stringer. In South Carolina, two members of the Carolina Panthers were forced to leave practice.
In Wisconsin, health officials believe heat has played a role in 10 deaths in the past three weeks, including seven in Milwaukee. In Oak Park, Mich., a man died of hyperthermia Tuesday after being found inside a locked car, according to the local medical examiner. Heat also was blamed for the deaths of a man working on a roof Monday in Madison County, Ky., and that of a 76-year-old man in West Chester, Pa., whose home had no air conditioning.
Cooler temperatures are expected this weekend around the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states.
The north-central Plains states were some of the first to break the fever – but at a price.
A cold front brought a powerful thunderstorm that cut an 18-mile swath through eastern North Dakota, knocking out power, flattening an estimated 2,400 trees and hurling grain bins across highways. No one was injured by the storm that damaged 25 percent of the homes in Hillsboro, N.D.
That same front was expected to continue to bring strong to severe thunderstorms to the Dakotas, moving into the Upper Mississippi Valley, and northern Great Lakes throughout Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.
Just about everywhere else, anyone who could avoided the sun and heat.
”Hot. Muggy. Icky. Sticky,” said Brandy Kallenbach, a teacher at the University of Wisconsin-Superior Child Care Center, where children were kept inside.
”I’m staying in air conditioning if at all possible,” Lynn Powell of Ann Arbor, Mich., clad in a T-shirt and shorts, said while touring the cooled Michigan Capitol in Lansing.
At New York state’s Howe Caverns, 150 miles north of New York City, extra tour guides had to be called in to deal with the surge of visitors drawn to the cave’s year-round temperature of 52 degrees.
Police in parts of New Jersey said they even noticed fewer street crimes this week.
”Heat forces people indoors,” said Union County, N.J., Assistant Prosecutor Robert O’Leary.
Some people, however, didn’t have a choice.
Melvin Weir said it was about 150 degrees in the manholes where he was working Wednesday in Cleveland.
”We don’t want to be here,” he said. ”Not on a day like today.”
Farther south, an ozone alert was issued for northern Virginia and the Richmond-Petersburg area. Bus rides in northern Virginia were free Wednesday to encourage people to leave cars at home.
Milk production was down on farms in Wisconsin and New Hampshire because the heat stresses cows. Ellen Killian said she and her husband’s 80-head herd hasn’t given much milk even though they air-conditioned their barn near Independence, Wis., for summers like this.
”Every cow is just soaking wet with sweat and they’re panting,” she said. ”It’s bad for both you and the cow.”
Electricity demand soared as air conditioners were cranked to the max. The overseer of New York state’s electrical grid, the Independent System Operator, said that while there should be enough power to meet demand, larger commercial users had been asked to cut their afternoon consumption.
Not everyone hid from the heat. In Rochester, N.Y., 64-year-old Bill Krause mopped his brow as he jogged in Cobbs Hill Park as the mercury edged into the 90s.
”You got to be a little crazy,” Krause said. ”I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.”
On the Net:
National Weather Service: http://www.nws.noaa.gov
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