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RDU hits record-breaking 102 degrees

Posted July 7, 2010
Updated July 8, 2010

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— The temperature at Raleigh-Durham International Airport hit 102 degrees Wednesday, beating the existing July 7 record of 100 degrees. The highest temperature ever recorded at RDU was 105 degrees.

Also hitting 102 degrees on Wednesday afternoon were Rocky Mount and Fayetteville. Goldsboro saw temperatures at 101.

The heat also left more than 1,400 people without power along the Johnston-Wake County line on Wednesday night. Progress Energy said hot weather caused an equipment malfunction in the area.

While the temperatures will drop in the coming days, the humidity levels will rise.

"Heat this intense you really have to sit up and take notice of," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said. "Today's likely to be the hottest day of our heat wave."

Air quality is also a concern. A Code Orange alert for 41 counties means the air is unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as active children and adults and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma. They should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.

The heat wave will abate somewhat as the week wears on. A low-pressure system will create chances for scattered showers and push high temperatures down into the low and mid 90s.

That change can't come too soon for the East Coast, which broiled Tuesday as the thermometer soared past 100 degrees from Richmond to Boston. Daily records were set in New York, where it hit 103, and in Philadelphia, where it reached 102.

Deaths blamed on the heat included a 92-year-old Philadelphia woman whose body was found Monday and a homeless woman found lying next to a car Sunday in suburban Detroit.

It's a heat wave even in the Northeast, where meteorologist define one as three consecutive days of temperatures of 90 or above. Newark, N.J., handily beat that threshold Tuesday, hitting 100 for the third day in a row.

"This is one of the hottest days in about a decade for many locations in the Northeast and even inland," National Weather Service spokesman Sean Potter said. "You'd go back to 2001 or maybe 1999 to find a similar heat wave."

In hot weather, cities and dense, built-up areas become so-called heat islands that are hotter than surrounding, less-developed areas. Scientists say that cities, with numerous building surfaces and paved roads and little vegetation, aren't designed to release heat well. Cities absorb more solar energy during the day and release it more slowly at night.

With people cranking up the air conditioning Tuesday, energy officials said there was tremendous demand for electricity, but the grid didn't buckle. Usage appeared to be falling just short of records set throughout the Northeast during a major heat wave in 2006.

It was so hot Tuesday that even machines had to slow down. Transportation officials cut the speed of commuter trains in suburban Washington, D.C., and New York when the tracks got too hot. Extreme heat can cause welded rails to bend under pressure.

Workers at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, N.J., used tubs of ice cubes to help four sick or weakened seals keep cool.

It wasn't much easier on animal lovers. In Massachusetts, Katie Wright was determined to follow through on her promise to take her children to a zoo.

"It's pretty ridiculous," Wright said as her 3-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter watched owls and hawks at the Audubon's Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln. "But we wanted to get out, so we brought hats, sunscreen, extra water, and then promised the kids lunch at an air-conditioned restaurant."

In Newark, people took advantage of pools and cooling centers. Cierra Christmas and Ayana Welch, both 11, cooled off in sprinklers at the Rotunda Recreation Center pool as part of a summer camp program.

"I would say, it seems like I'm in an oven, and it's on 360 (degrees), and I'm being baked like a cake," Cierra said.

Ayana laughed, adding, "360? I'm at 550!"

61 Comments

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  • sweetrose Jul 8, 2010

    "I have worked outside before, and I'm just not feeling sorry for you or your husband"
    oogum boogum

    First off you don't know me or my husband and have NO knowledge of his situation because you worked outside before.

    Second ... I was not asking you or anyone else to feel sorry for me or my husband. I was trying to make the point to those that think that triple digit heat is just another ordinary summer day the dangers that some people face in extreme weather situations.

    I have a greater understanding to the dangers of extreme heat because of my own personal situations ... family members with health issues and a husband as well as other family members and many friends that have jobs that require them to be outside.

  • Scubagirl Jul 7, 2010

    it's not free to move of course, but those who don't like it here are certainly NOT obligated to stay and can go away. they got here......

  • kmichael Jul 7, 2010

    It was 113 at my house today....way too hot!!!

  • ckblackm Jul 7, 2010

    since when is it free to move, scubagirl?

  • justrealthatsall Jul 7, 2010

    could bake some break on the roof if u wanted to!

  • Scubagirl Jul 7, 2010

    "NC weather sucks!"

    feel free to move somewhere else....too many people here anyway

  • Myword Jul 7, 2010

    I love all the rightwingers trying to say this is just another summer day. No, it is not. It is a RECORD HIGH summer day. Question: is the world setting more record highs or record lows? Yeah.

  • random musings Jul 7, 2010

    it was 104 in the shade at my house.

    too flipping hot!

  • Pseudonym Jul 7, 2010

    Hottest summer I remember was when I was on a DOT survey party and we were working on a road in Pembroke. We surveyed roughly a mile and a half of road (both sides) on a day that hit 102 and the heat index was between 110 and 120.

  • Pseudonym Jul 7, 2010

    Wilted sweetrose,

    I have worked outside before, and I'm just not feeling sorry for you or your husband for two reasons: 1- He CHOSE construction as a career, so he is not being forced to work outside. 2-He's a big boy, so I'm sure he's smart enough to know to drink LOTS of water, take frequent breaks, drink LOTS of water, take lunch in an air conditioned location, drink LOTS of water, stay out of the sun as much as possible, and drink LOTS and LOTS of water.

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