Weather

Water, A/C Hot Commodities as Temperatures Soar

Posted August 9, 2007 5:21 p.m. EDT
Updated August 10, 2007 6:54 a.m. EDT

— From hospitals, to water use, to power, the ongoing heat continues to have a ripple effect all over the area.

Power companies reported record energy use. Duke Energy customers used more power Wednesday than ever before, and  Progress Energy was not far behind. And it's not just power – it’s water, too.

Raleigh water customers Wednesday shattered the previous record, officials said Thursday, using more than 74 million gallons in one day. The average is about 61 million.

“Typically on hot days, water usage patterns go up regardless if we set a record or not,” said Dale Crisp, Raleigh utilities director. “A lot of the commercial and institutional buildings use our potable water system for air conditioning.”

Local hospitals have been dealing with their own wave of heat-related problems.

“We’ve actually seen 17 people with heat-related illnesses in the past 24 hours, and that’s up almost threefold over the previous 24 hours where we just saw six people,” Dr. Anita L’Italien, a physician at WakeMed, said Thursday.

Rex Hospital just had two people come in Thursday with heat-related illnesses. Still, with another hot day expected Friday, doctors were warning everyone to take it easy.

The only things that made temperatures look almost reasonable Thursday were the heat-index reports, which were almost unbelievable.

At 4 p.m. Thursday, the National Weather Service reported a heat index – what the temperature feels like based on heat and humidity – of 121 at Manteo in Dare County, were the temperature was only 93 but humidity was high. In Jacksonville, home to Camp Lejeune, the temperature was 96 and the index was 122.

At the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, the thermometer read 104 and the index was calculated at 112.

Other temperatures around the state and the heat indices included:

  • Fayetteville, 105 and 111
  • Charlotte, 102 and 103
  • Lumberton, 102 and 108
  • Roanoke Rapids, 103 and 107
  • Rocky Mount-Wilson Airport, 103 and 107
  • Cape Hatteras, 89 and 106
  • Washington, 99 and 117
  • New Bern, 97 and 117
  • Greensboro, 100 and 102

At Grandfather Mountain, record-keepers noted a daily high temperature for the third day in a row, with 81 breaking the 1979 record of 79 degrees.

The city of Raleigh said some recycling and yard-waste collection routes could not be completed as workers were pulled out of the heat, but all garbage routes were finished except for one affected by an equipment problem.

The heat has put a heavy load on utilities. Duke Energy reported Thursday that between 3 and 4 p.m. Wednesday, its customers drew more power than ever before. The company cranked out 18,988 megawatt-hours of electricity, topping the previous high demand of 18,687 megawatts on July 27, 2005.

The Fayetteville Public Works Commission said the municipally owned utility hit a record demand – 476.6 megawatt-hours (MWh) – between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. PWC's previous historical peak electricity use was 474 MWh, also on July 27, 2005.

North Carolina Electric Cooperatives, a network that services 2.5 million customers, most of them in rural areas of the state, hit record usage at 2,967 megawatt hours around 6 p.m. Wednesday. That usage broke the previous record of 2,869 megawatt hours set Jan. 19, 2005, a spokeswoman said.

"It's just brutal out there," said Paul Puzzanghera, who was vacationing from Boston with his wife and daughters in Duck, on the Outer Banks.

They spent the afternoon in a movie theater rather than on the beach, he said.

The continuing heat had public officials, including Gov. Mike Easley, asking residents to suffer a little by pushing up air-conditioning temperatures so that everyone could keep power, avoiding blackouts that could occur if demand outstripped supply.

The Friday forecasts included excessive heat warnings for Raleigh and areas east. In Durham, Chapel Hill and to the west, the weather service issues on heat advisories, a slightly lower-level warning.

Triangle residents were probably in for another day of triple-digit temperatures, though perhaps a few degrees lower than Wednesday and Thursday, the forecasters said.