RALEIGH, N.C. — After a string of record-setting days with triple-digit temperatures, relief should be on the way this weekend with highs predicted to be in the low 90s Saturday and Sunday.
The slightly cooler weather was expected from a front passing through North Carolina Friday afternoon and evening that brought thunderstorms to parts of the area.
The high temperature Friday reached 104 degrees at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, with a heat index of 105 to 115, easily beating the record of 99 degrees, set in 2001.
Heat advisories and excessive heat warnings had been issued for dozens of counties across central and eastern North Carolina.
The state Division of Air Quality also issued a Code Orange ozone alert for the Triangle region on Friday, the fifth straight day the area reported unhealthy air. Children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems were urged to limit their outdoor activities.
Wake County Emergency Medical Services reported numerous heat-related emergencies, though none of were life-threatening. As of 3 p.m. Friday, WakeMed reported having 16 patients suffering from heat-related illnesses at its hospitals in Raleigh and Cary. Rex Hospital in Raleigh reported six patients. (Tips on staying safe during hot weather.)
Thursday's high temperature of 104 fell just shy of the all-time high in Raleigh of 105, but it easily shattered the 100-degree record for any Aug. 9. That followed a Wednesday record of 102 in Raleigh.
The searing heat set a water consumption record in Raleigh and broke electricity records for area utilities.
Progress Energy set a record for peak demand from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday at 12,647 megawatt-hours, topping a record from July 2005, officials said. The Fayetteville Public Works Commission reached its peak record of 476.6 megawatt-hours between 4 and 5 p.m. Thursday, also topping a July 2005 demand level.
Duke Energy and North Carolina Electric Cooperatives established new demand records Wednesday.
Despite predictions of lower temperatures, Duke Energy asked customers to continue to conserve electricity through the weekend.
Energy officials recommended residents raise their thermostats, use fans, run major appliances only during at evening and night, close window treatments during the day.
Raleigh set consecutive water consumption records Wednesday and Thursday. About 77 million gallons were consumed Thursday, up from the 74 million on Wednesday, officials said.
The weekend's respite, although short-lived -- highs Monday are forecast in the upper 90s -- will be a welcome to many coping with the heat. (See what local companies are doing.)
At the community pool in Knightdale, where the water temperature reached nearly 90 degrees late Friday morning, organizers of the town's children's summer camp ordered 100 blocks of ice, 12 pounds each, to offer some relief and campers a chance to play outside for a while.
"It brought it back down about 5 degrees," said Cheryl Faison, a counselor with Knightdale Parks and Recreation. "Unfortunately, we don't think that's going to be the case the rest of the day, but that's when we'll take our breaks."
Zookeepers at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro spent Friday providing cool-water mists, chilled pools and ice for animals like the zoo's only polar bear, Willy. (Watch how the zoo's keeping animals cool.)
"What he's been doing to beat the heat is slipping into the pool, playing with ice, playing with some of his toys in the water, takes a nap, gets warm, slips back in the water," said N.C. Zoo Curator of Mammals Lorraine Smith. "Pretty much the same thing you or I would do at the beach."
And at Apex Nurseries Inc. in Apex, irrigation is almost nonstop for more than 100 acres and millions of plants.
"One day of irrigation not running can really do a lot of damage," said Brie Gluvna with the nursery. "For landscapers, this kind of weather is a disaster."