Weather

Heat wave spreads over N.C.

Posted July 22, 2010 5:17 a.m. EDT
Updated July 22, 2010 11:41 p.m. EDT

— The eastern half of North Carolina will be under a heat advisory Friday as temperatures near 100 degrees and high humidity levels combine to produce dangerous conditions.

"It is going to get worse than it is right now over the coming days," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said Thursday, noting the heat index could approach 110 degrees.

High temperatures Thursday reached 97 degrees in Raleigh, 94 in Chapel Hill and 98 in Fayetteville. The heat index hit 104 in Raleigh, 102 in Fayetteville and 101 in Chapel Hill.

The chance of pop-up storms to cool things down remains slight on Friday, but there will be plenty of moisture in the air.

A heat index of 105 degrees or higher indicates dangerous health conditions, WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

"When we have so much moisture in the atmosphere, the perspiration on your hand can’t move into the atmosphere as easily. So it stays on your skin, and it doesn’t do the job that it’s supposed to do," she said. "You just don’t cool off very much."

Almost 500 people have visited hospital emergency departments statewide since mid-June for heat-related illnesses, said Julie Henry, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services. Most of them were young and middle-aged adults, she said.

Wake County EMS District Chief Jeff Hammerstein agreed that heat-related calls have been up recently.

"It can be extremely dangerous. It can be fatal," Hammerstein said. "It's not terribly uncommon to (respond) to a jogger in their 20s or 30s who was out running as they normally do and couldn't take the heat."

At least one player was overcome by heat Thursday on the last day of the PONY Nationals softball tournament in Cary. More than 100 U.S. and Canadian teams of 12- to 14-year-old girls participated in the six-day tournament at Thomas Brooks Park.

Several players said the heat and sweat made it hard to play.

"I overthrew at least three balls because of my hand being wet and like you can't ever get dry and it just keeps coming," player Erika Glover said.

Umpire Bob Smedley has been wearing heavy gear and pulling six-hour shifts in the heat during the tournament. Smedley said he started getting ready for the heat days before the tournament, drinking plenty of fluids and eating anything with potassium, like bananas and mandarin oranges.

"It's probably 8 degrees hotter with all the gear on," he said. "It's something you've got to prepare for and take care of yourself, or you are not going to make it through."

The heat makes doing business challenging for Todd Dawson ice-sculpting business in Raleigh.

"We make our own ice, so it's taking extra energy to produce that ice," he said.

Neither is transporting the ice sculptures easy in the heat, Dawson said.

"This time of year, you've got to bubble-wrap them, insulate them in blankets, pack them in dry ice – really go the extra mile – because you don't want to roll into a party with a piece of ice dripping," he said.

Fishel said the heat index could rise even more on the weekend, when temperatures are expected to top 100 degrees.

"We're probably going to peak here Saturday and Sunday and then get some subtle relief next week," he said.

The heat wave has placed added demands on area utilities, and Fayetteville's Public Works Commission asked customers to limit energy use between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the coming days.

Officials recommended that PWC customers set air conditioners at 78 degrees, delay cooking and laundry until later in the evening, turn off unneeded lights and appliances and keep blinds closed.

The prolonged, unseasonably heat also has created drought conditions in North Carolina.

As of the latest weekly report Thursday, 18 counties – including a portion of northern Wake County – were in a moderate drought, the least severe of four categories rating the intensity of a drought.

Sixty-six counties were experiencing abnormally dry conditions.