Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Early blast of heat and humidity leaves millions sweltering across US

Published:Wednesday | June 19, 2024 | 8:47 AM
Serena Porter, 9, stays cool as she runs through water provided by the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety during Spray and Play on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, at City Center Park in downtown Benton Harbor, Mich. (Don Campbell/The Herald-Palladium via AP)

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A blast of heat and humidity in the Midwest and Northeast days before the official start of summer put a wet blanket on outdoor activities from festivals to sports camps as officials urged people to take precautions.

Cities that opened cooling centres this week advised that Wednesday's Juneteenth holiday means some public libraries, senior centres and pools where residents could beat the heat will be closed.

The dangerous temperatures were expected to peak in the eastern Great Lakes and New England on Wednesday and Thursday, and in the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic on Friday and Saturday, the National Weather Service said. Heat index readings were expected to reach 100 to 105 degrees (37.7 C to 40.5 C) in many locations.

People and even zoo animals were forced to find ways to thwart the muggy weather.

An organisation that provides produce to areas with limited access to fresh food in Columbus, Ohio, prepared frozen towels and packed cold water for their workers.

“Hydration is the key,” said Monique McCoy, market manager for the Local Matters Veggie Van.

In Toledo, Ohio, the city cancelled a weekly fitness event and a neighbouring suburb called off a street fair as temperatures reached the mid-90s (about 35 C). A food bank in upstate New York cancelled deliveries for Wednesday out of concern for staff and volunteers.

Schools in New York cancelled field trips Tuesday to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, where workers turned on water misters for visitors and the animals. Elephants and other animals were getting chunks of ice in their pools, said Ted Fox, the zoo's executive director.

“Even the tigers love to lick the ice and put their heads on them when it's this warm,” Fox said.

The blast of extreme temperatures came a little too early for many.

“This is hot for just moving in to summer, so I'm hoping that we're going to see the downward trend in the temperature here soon because this is a warm one,” said Krista Voltolini, who was selling produce at a farmer's market in Columbus.

A recent study found that climate change is making heat waves move more slowly and affect more people for a longer time. Last year, the US saw the most heat waves — abnormally hot weather lasting more than two days — since 1936.

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