Weather

Heat wave helps spread drought in NC

Posted June 9, 2011 9:26 a.m. EDT
Updated June 9, 2011 1:35 p.m. EDT

— A heat wave gripping much of the eastern half of the United States helped spread drought conditions in North Carolina this week, but the chance for showers and storms might bring some relief this weekend.

The Sandhills got some rain showers and storms overnight and into Thursday morning, but they largely dissipated by early afternoon.

Meanwhile, forecasters say 90-plus degree temperatures will continue to hold sway in the South and as far away as the Great Lakes and New York and New Jersey.

"I think everybody's really tired of seeing such hot temperatures," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

The Triangle will see a high in the mid 90s Thursday and Friday and in the low 90s Saturday and Sunday.

"We are on track for lots of days with highs in the 90s this summer," Gardner said.

Those same days will see increasing chances for scattered, afternoon showers and thunderstorms. The best chance for rain will be to the north and west of the Triangle.

A front that rolls through Sunday will bring "a bit of cool down early next week," with highs in the mid to upper 80s, Gardner said.

Drought conditions spread in N.C.

The heat wave has helped spread drought conditions in North Carolina, according to a report released by the U.S. Drought Monitor late Thursday morning.

Moderate drought conditions exist throughout central and eastern counties, including Wake County. Over the past week, the number of counties experiencing moderate drought conditions jumped from 20 to 31.

Eighteen coastal counties are in a severe drought, up one from a week ago. Abnormally dry conditions are hitting 32 western-central and mountain counties, up four.

The Triangle is short more than 5 inches of rainfall from the total that's normally fallen by this time of year. The area's gotten 13.86 inches of rain, compared to the average 19.02 inches.

Southern Pines ordered water restrictions Wednesday to help deal with moderate drought and below average rainfall in the area.

Residents may water their lawns only once every four days, restaurants must serve water only when it's requested, and golf courses must reduce water usage by 40 percent.

Town manager Reagan Parsons said the restrictions are automatic, based on water flow in Drowning Creek, which provides the town's water.

Heat takes its toll on the eastern U.S.

Public schools in Philadelphia and parts of New Jersey and Maryland cut their days short Wednesday because of heat. Cooling centers opened in Chicago, Memphis and Newark as refuges for those without air conditioning.

Authorities say hot weather was so intense in southwestern Michigan that it buckled pavement on an interstate, forcing the roadway to close for a few hours Wednesday, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer.

"I'm staying in my house. I'm going to watch TV and have a cold beer," said 84-year-old Harvey Milliman of Manchester, N.J. "You got a better idea than that, I'd love to hear it."

Youngsters sweltered in Hartford, Conn., where school would have ended for the summer by now if not for the heavy snows last winter that led to makeup days.

"I'm not even going to go outside this summer if it's going to be like this, unless my mom makes me," said seventh-grader Kemeshon Scott, putting the final touches on a social studies paper in a school with no air conditioning.

On Wednesday, temperatures in the 90s were recorded across much of the South, the East and the Midwest. Baltimore and Washington hit 99 degrees, breaking high-temperature records for the date that were set in 1999, according to the National Weather Service. The normal high for the date is about 82.

Philadelphia hit 97 degrees, breaking a 2008 record of 95, and Atlantic City, N.J., tied a record of 98 set in 1999. Chicago reached 94 by midafternoon.

Forecasters said it felt even hotter because of the high humidity. The ridge of high pressure that brought the broiling weather is expected to remain parked over the region through Thursday.

In Oklahoma, where temperatures have reached 104 four times so far this month, the Salvation Army said more people are seeking help with high utility bills earlier in the season, and paramedics responded to more heat-related illnesses.

Authorities blamed the heat for deaths of five elderly people in Tennessee, Maryland and Wisconsin in recent days.

That is likely to continue in the coming month, with the hot weather extending west into New Mexico and Arizona. The three-month outlook shows excessive heat focused on Arizona and extending east along the Gulf Coast. Cooler-than-normal readings are forecast from Tennessee into the Great Lakes states.

It's hard to stay cool at a ballpark but Reds and Cubs fans were trying at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, which had issued a heat emergency.

Kathryn Burke, of Pikeville, Ky., wore a straw hat, brought two bottles of frozen water, and a portable mister.

"And I brought the knowledge to leave when I've had enough of the heat," she said.

One Cubs fan wasn't so concerned.

"Sunblock, water, and shades, then enjoy the game," said Brad Daniels of his heat defenses. "Hey, it's baseball. We're here to see the boys of summer."

Officials at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, the Army's largest training installation, let recruits adjust their uniforms to get cooler and spend time in the shade.

One soldier who had minor heat ailments earlier in the week had to wear a string of beads to display how many quarts of water he was drinking each day. Said Pvt. Ryan Kline, 24, of Windsor, Colo.: "I had lots of pain, fatigue, but I'm fine today as long as I stay hydrated."

Among those sweltering in the Newark, N.J., heat was Alejandra Perez, who was barbecuing chicken, ribs and shish-kebabs over an outdoor grill at Manny's BBQ Restaurant & Deli in the city's downtown. Newark reached 99 degrees, breaking a record of 97 set in 1999.

"I'm from El Salvador, and it's hot there, but the heat is much worse here," she said in Spanish.