Raleigh, N.C. — High humidity and temperatures in the mid-90s, which made it feel like triple digits Thursday across central North Carolina, could fuel pop-up thunderstorms through the evening, WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.
Temperatures hit 94 degrees at Raleigh-Durham International Airport by 3 p.m., and the heat index made it feel more like 105. A brief rain shower during the 4 o'clock hour cooled things down a bit but added to the humidity.
To put the heat in perspective, Fishel said between June 1 and July 18 last year, boiling temperatures had tied or broken seven heat records.
"You know how many records we've tied or broken June 1 to July 18 this year? A big goose egg," he said. "So yes, it is hot, but it certainly doesn't rival what we saw last year at this time."
Still, Thursday was one of the warmest days of 2013 so far.
"To our north, the heat is even worse," said WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner. "Areas of southern Virginia, including Mecklenburg County, in our viewing area, are under a heat advisory."
The heat and humidity combined can mean health dangers for those who work outdoors or spend extended time in the sun. Those most at risk for heat exhaustion include the very young and the very old, as well as anyone who is obese or on medications, such as antihistamines, diuretics or beta blockers.
When it is an option, people should avoid the hottest part of the day – generally between noon and 2 p.m. – and should take frequent breaks from the sun and drink plenty of liquids.
Animals feel the heat as well, and they should not be left outdoors without adequate shade and water or in a parked car when the weather is too hot.
"A car can go from 70 degrees with the air conditioner on to 160 degrees in about five minutes when the sun's shining in the middle of the day," said Dr. John Lauby with Cumberland County Animal Control. "People seem to think that if they crack their windows an inch or two, that gives plenty of air. It does not."
In the Triangle, the warm, moist air mass could also help produce evening thunderstorms for some. Storms that do form could include abundant lightning, gusty winds and small hail, Gardner said.
Temperatures will remain warm Friday and Saturday, topping out in the mid-90s. A front will approach on Sunday, beginning a gradual cooling trend early next week that will also include an increase in the Triangle's chance to see rain showers.
But don't expect a major cooldown.
"We'll take the edge off the heat," Fishel said. "I don't know it we're going to have a sub-90 day, but at least we'll be down around 90 as we head into next week, which will at least be a little bit of relief."
Fayetteville resident Eric Brock said he was glad to see the rain go, but wasn't thrilled when the heat arrived.
"The grass grows. You've got to cut it two times a week just because of the rain we've had every day," he said. "I missed the hot weather, but then when it gets here, I start regretting it instantly."