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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

The heat across much of the country is not normal for this time of year

Families play in the fountains in Dilworth Park in Philadelphia, May 21, 2022.

By Sophie Kasakove and Rick Rojas

Cities across a wide swath of the country tied or broke heat records Saturday as blazing heat and humidity roasted states from Texas to Massachusetts, placing more than 38 million Americans under a heat advisory in the hottest hours of the day.

Records fell in places like Austin, Texas, which hit 99 degrees at its airport and 100 at Camp Mabry; Vicksburg, Mississippi, which reached 98 degrees; and Richmond, Virginia, where the thermometer climbed to 95. Philadelphia tied its record at 95 degrees, as did Worcester, Massachusetts, where temperatures reached 88.

At a community sidewalk sale in Philadelphia on Saturday, residents in the Fishtown neighborhood displayed tables of old books, clothing and trinkets they were looking to sell for a little extra cash. Ashley Horowitz, 34, said she had a lot of people come by until her side of the street became bathed in direct sunlight in the early afternoon.

“This is not pleasant,” she said.

In West Virginia, public health officials urged people to look out for symptoms of heat exhaustion. In Washington, D.C., officials activated heat emergency plans, opening splash parks and cooling centers. A runner in the Brooklyn Half Marathon in New York City — where organizers had warned participants of potential heat concerns — died Saturday morning, though it was not immediately clear if the weather had played a role.

Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, is still more than a week away. But by the end of the weekend, more than half of all Americans will have experienced temperatures of 90 degrees or higher from a blast of hot air that started in the Southwest, swept across the eastern third of the country, and will move through New England into Canada.

Washington, D.C., reached a high of 92 on Saturday afternoon, 3 degrees shy of its daily record. New York City saw a high of 90; its record for May 21 is 93.

With temperatures in the mid-90s at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course, which hosted the Preakness Stakes, the usually rowdy infield was sparse and uncharacteristically sedate in early afternoon, with the biggest crowds found at the water stations or beneath tents or in the shadows cast by concession stands and supply trucks.

In other parts of the country, the misery set in weeks ago. In drought-parched New Mexico, the largest wildfire in the state’s recorded history is burning, months before the start of the peak fire season. Other blazes are driving evacuations and fears in Colorado, Arizona and Utah.

Parts of Texas, where heat-intensified wildfires burned 30 structures near Abilene this week, saw their earliest triple-digit temperatures on record this month.

And in a sign of just how strange things could get, Denver whiplashed from 90-degree weather this past week to a late-spring snowfall overnight Friday into Saturday.

Above-average temperatures and drought conditions will contribute to high energy demand and put several parts of the country at elevated or high risk of energy shortfalls this summer, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. warned last week.

In many places, temperatures could be 20 degrees or more above what residents are accustomed to for this time of year. In Boston, for instance, the average temperature for the weekend before Memorial Day is typically in the high 60s. Although the high Saturday was 71, the forecast for Sunday is that it could reach 96.

“Definitely very abnormally warm temperatures expected tomorrow,” Torry Gaucher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boston, said Saturday.

The predicted high of 96 degrees in Worcester on Sunday would exceed the monthly record of 94 degrees, set in 2010, the National Weather Service said.

The agency’s office in Gray, Maine, with a territory covering Maine and New Hampshire, noted that it had never before issued a heat advisory during the month of May. “With the forecast continuing to hint at record-breaking heat, and high humidity, this weekend,” the office said in a post on Twitter, “this streak may end.”

Elsewhere in the East, the stretch of heat is expected to fade over the rest of the weekend, though it may be followed by thunderstorms and severe weather, according to the National Weather Service. And heading into Monday, parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas could see excessive rainfall and thunderstorms.

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