Weather

'Tolerable heat wave' hits Triangle

Posted July 5, 2010 5:50 a.m. EDT
Updated July 5, 2010 7:23 p.m. EDT

— Scorching heat returned to central North Carolina Monday, and the first full week of July kicked off with increasingly hot temperatures that could reach 100 degrees by Wednesday.

"That sunshine is going to be brutal for us over the next few days," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

The heat wave stretched from the Triangle northward through the mid-Atlantic and into the Northeast. Raleigh's high temperature was 96 degrees on Monday, while New York and Washington, D.C., hit 98 and Frederick, Md., topped out at 102.

Some Raleigh residents decided to head to Lake Wheeler early Monday to enjoy a belated July 4th holiday before it got to be too hot.

"I figured, before the heat wave comes back, we're going to come out here early," said Nancy Kulesza, who went fishing at the lake at 6 a.m. "We thought we'd go fishing in the shade."

WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said the dry air that created a pleasant weekend across the region remains in place, and the low humidity levels will create "a tolerable heat wave" over the next few days.

"Remember the last heat wave we had, how nasty it was?" Maze said. "Well, this heat wave is not going to feel quite so bad."

Still, the air is expected to get stale quickly.

The state Division of Air Quality issued a Code Orange ozone alert across much of the Triangle on Tuesday. Counties covered by the alert include Chatham, Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Johnston, Nash, Orange, Person, Vance and Wake counties.

Forecasts call for temperatures to hit 98 degrees on Tuesday and 100 on Wednesday before dropping back to the low 90s by the end of the week, when an offshore low-pressure system could bring some much needed rain to North Carolina.

Until then, Gardner said, a high-pressure system over the region "is going to act like a lid" and prevent any afternoon thunderstorms.

"One, it's going to dry us out, and two, we don't get any chance to cool off," she said. "It's just going to bake."

The hot, dry weather will tax area lawns and flower beds. Several area cities, including Raleigh and Cary, have year-round water restrictions in place, preventing residents from using sprinklers more than three days a week.

Johnston County recently issued a water shortage advisory because its distribution system couldn't keep up with demand for water. The advisory asked people to refrain from outdoor irrigation and washing cars.

"It's been really dry, dry and dusty. The grass is not growing much," said Owen Perry, who added that he has more brown spots on his lawn than he would like.

"I'm kind of watching (Raleigh's) limits and requirements on water," Julia Eaton said. "We can barely use water, but when we get the chance, we do (water) because everything's dying."

"As long as we can come out to the lake, I am not worried about the grass," Greg Bloom said as he prepared to go boating on Lake Wheeler.