People struggle to keep cool amid triple-digit heat index

Posted July 13
Updated July 14

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— Temperatures soared into the upper 90s Thursday afternoon, and the heat index climbed into dangerous levels in the triple digits.

Counties to the east and south of the Triangle were under a heat advisory until 9 p.m. as temperatures reached 96 to 99 degrees. Stifling humidity made it feel more like 105 to 109 degrees in many places.

"If you have to be outside for any length of time this afternoon, the heat will take its toll," said WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze.

In Cumberland County, 1400 students enrolled in year-round school programs were forced to stay inside as the heat advisory canceled all outdoor activities between 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

For students at Reid Ross Classical School, Thursday was only the second day of class and students were not scheduled to be outdoors much.

"Instead of being in the gym or running around the track, they're going to be in the classroom learning all the procedures and rules that govern Reid Ross," said Assistant Principal Carman McFarlin. "Our building is adequately cooled and so we're quite comfortable so today the heat index is not going to be a big deal."

Some Pennsylvania students in the area helping to fix up the Haymount United Methodist Church got a first-had lesson in North Carolina heat.

"They come outside and they feel that humidity and they immediately go 'what is that,' which is great," said youth pastor Sean Garner. "Get them used to the sun and feeling the heat. They're hurting a little bit as the week goes on."

At Christina Rowe's Cary home, a broken air conditioner meant her house was a stifling 87 degrees and her dogs, with their thick fur, were her top concern.

"I have two senior old English sheepdogs. It's not a breed that does well with hot weather so I've been adjusting fans to point at them as they move through the house," Rowe said.

Rowe also used ice packs and ice chips to make sure the dogs didn't get overheated.

At Michael and Sons Heating and Air, they've been averaging about 50 calls per day.

"It's been busy, hot, but it is the season and it keeps us going," said repairman Stephen Grbooshian.

Experts say to keep an air conditioning unit running smoothly, filters should be checked and cleaned monthly, the unit should be cleared of debris and leaves and it should be inspected at least once per year.

"You have to have your maintenance done in the spring before it gets super hot," Grbooshian said. "If your refrigerant levels are low in the spring, as soon as we hit these 90 degree days, it's not going to cool."

Grbooshian said even though the heat wave has him working 10 to 12 hour days, knowing he's helped ease some of the misery makes it worthwhile.

"They're usually hot when I show up but happy when I leave," he said.

High pressure will keep most of Thursday dry, WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said, though some small thunderstorms began popping up during the afternoon. Maze said those storms could grow as the evening goes on. Another storm front moving in the the northwest will increase the chance of rain on Friday and over the weekend.

"As this front gets a little closer to us our chance for thunderstorms goes up a little bit tomorrow, and then it goes up a lot more for Saturday and Sunday," Gardner said.


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