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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Heat wave stifles much of eastern US for 3rd consecutive day

Jesse Ryan, left, and Andrew Karman wipe their sweat off and cool down at the Point State Park Fountain after riding their bikes in 93-degree heat in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. The heat wave was just beginning in the Northeast, which continued to swelter Wednesday with little overnight relief from the stark temperatures. (Jared Wickerham/The New York Times)

By Jacey Fortin

The last full day of spring felt more like deep summer throughout much of the eastern half of the United States on Wednesday, with several cities and states taking precautions to keep residents cool as temperatures soared deep into the 90s for a third consecutive day.

The springtime heat, created by a high pressure system way up in the atmosphere, continued to scorch a vast stretch from the lower Midwest to the northern tip of Maine, in Caribou, where temperatures could reach 96 degrees in the afternoon, which would tie the highest temperature ever recorded there.

In central Maine, forecast maps showed heat indexes — a measure of how it feels, taking into account both temperature and humidity — rising above 100 degrees. In Pittsburgh and other parts of western Pennsylvania, thousands of residents faced the double challenge of sweltering heat and lingering power outages from recent storms. Forecasters warned that the heat index could be as high as 110 degrees there.

The Northeast could see cooler temperatures this weekend. But forecasters say the heat and humidity will likely move south, bringing high heat indexes to parts of the South and central Plains early in the week.

Here are the details:

— Unexpected hazards: The heat, which will linger through at least the weekend in part of the region, has already caught some cities off guard. In New York City, the public pools are not open yet, but Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that some pools and beaches in other parts of the state will open early. Amtrak warned of possible delays along its service through the east coast of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine because of heat related-speed restrictions.

— More than 78 million people were under extreme heat advisories, watches or warnings, according to the National Weather Service. That is nearly double the population of the state of California.

— Why it’s hot: The meteorological phenomenon driving the high temperatures is sometimes described as a heat dome. Pressure high in the atmosphere acts like a lid on a pot, keeping the heat from dissipating, said Frank Pereira, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s prediction center.

— Global warming’s role: In recent years, global warming has been making heat waves hotter, more frequent and longer lasting. Last year was the warmest on record, and global temperatures have continued breaking monthly records this year, too. The weather service has warned that this heat wave could be the longest one some places have experienced in decades.

— Summer warning signs: Heat waves in mid-June are not unprecedented, but the duration of this one suggests that summer could be particularly brutal. And while the temperatures may soon ebb in a few places — including the northern reaches of New England — most people in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions can expect higher-than-usual temperatures at least through the end of this month, Pereira said.

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