Triple-digit heat returns before cold fronts

Triple-digit temperatures made a return to central and eastern North Carolina Wednesday, but a cold front will likely stave them off for the weekend - and hinder the approach of a possible hurricane.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Triple-digit temperatures made a return to central and eastern North Carolina Wednesday, but a cold front will likely stave them off for the weekend – and hinder the approach of a possible hurricane.

The mercury hit 98 degrees by 4 p.m., falling short of the record for Aug. 3 of 99 degrees at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Temperatures hit 101 in Fayetteville and Goldsboro, WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said.

The heat melted soap and cookies in jars at the farmers market on Fayetteville Street.

Even a vendor for Lumpy's ice cream said he's had to get creative to make sales.

"Once it gets over 95, it's hard to sell ice cream. So this year, we've come up with a plan: fresh fruit on a stick," Buck Buchanan said. "It's fun. It's selling well."

The high is forecast to be just below the century mark Thursday, but it will be more humid, making it feel even hotter than Wednesday, Maze said. A heat advisory has been issued for the Triangle, the Sandhills and much of eastern North Carolina, meaning the heat index could make it feel like 105 to 110 degrees.

A cold front will blow through the state Thursday afternoon and evening, possibly setting off a blustery storm or two.

Temperatures will drop into the low to mid 90s Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Those days could see stray showers and storms.

Why is Raleigh so hot? 

Ryan Boyles, director of the State Climate Control Office at North Carolina State University, said last month was the hottest July on record at RDU in nearly 100 years. 

"Of the 10 warmest years on record, six of those have occurred in the past decade at RDU," Boyles said. 

The hottest temperatures are in Raleigh because it is more urban, he said. 

"As you get out to rural areas like Oxford, we haven't seen the same level of heat as we've seen in Raleigh," Boyles said. " A lot of that is due to the built-up environment that we've developed over the past 30 (to) 40 years."

Boyles said more asphalt, concrete and buildings with air conditioning units are putting heat into the air. 

"All of that adds up and locally can create an urban heat island effect," Boyles said. 

Will Emily impact NC?

By Sunday, eyes will be turning to Tropical Storm Emily, which had winds of 50 mph and was 1,408 miles southeast of Raleigh late Wednesday.

Wind shear in the upper atmosphere was separating the rain from the center of circulation, knocking the storm down a bit as it stalled near the Dominican Republic, Maze said.

"It has not made that definitive turn to the west and northwest, and the longer it takes to do that, the closer it will get to Cuba and then maybe (pass) over Florida instead of the Bahamas," he said. "The track is really not set in stone."

Most models still have Emily traveling north across the Bahamas and up the East Coast, possibly brushing North Carolina before heading out to sea. Other models have it moving over Cuba and past Florida's Gulf Coast, which could bring rain to North Carolina as the system moves inland, Maze said.

If Emily follows the eastern path, he said, a cold front crossing North Carolina this weekend will likely push the storm away from the state while bringing rain to the region.

"It is likely to brush by North Carolina as a very minimal Category 1 hurricane," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said. The winds are forecast to be around 75 mph.

"At the very least, we'd be talking about some beach erosion, maybe some overwash on N.C. Highway 12 along the Outer Banks and certainly some rip current danger," Gardner said. "At worse, we'd be talking about some flooding and wind damage."

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