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Published: Wednesday, 8/1/2001

Stuck with sticky, icky weather

It's beat the heat time once again as the miserable muggies settle in for what could be an extended stay.

There was no argument among weather forecasters about today's likely heat, bright sunshine, and humidity - or the muggy conditions that will prevail tonight.

“It's going to be uncomfortable in the mid-to-late afternoon,” said Brad Vrcek, a lead forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Cleveland. The high temperature is expected to be in the low 90s. The record for the date is 98, set in 1935.

“We're in summer,” noted Kirk Lombardy, a meteorologist at the weather service office in Cleveland. “It's typical for a normal summer. While we struggled to get into the 90s last summer, this is not unusual at all.”

With no rainfall and not much wind, environmental authorities issued an air-quality alert for today - an Ozone Action! Day - for the Toledo and Detroit metropolitan areas.

Yesterday and today could be just the start of more than a week of hot and, at times, humid - but fairly rain-free - weather.

“We're going to be stuck with a pattern that favors temperatures above normal [which is in the low 80s],” said Kerry Schwindenhammer, a meteorologist with AccuWeather, Inc., a private forecasting firm based in State College, Pa.

Low-90s temperatures are possible tomorrow too, although Mr. Schwindenhammer said cloudier conditions and thundershowers could rein in the mercury just a bit. A cold front expected to pass across the lower Great Lakes region on Friday should reduce the humidity, but only drop daily high temperatures into the middle to upper 80s, he said.

“It looks like we're going to moderate a little bit” during the weekend, agreed Mr. Vrcek.

As things began to intensify yesterday, people went to local senior centers for a respite, while youngsters opted in droves for swimming pools. And down at the car wash, employees squirted each other with hoses.

Aaron Binkley, an employee at the Surf City car wash, 1919 Tremainsville Rd., said customers tend to wash their own vehicles when the heat is on. The hired hands are forced to find other ways to cool off. “We spray each other with the [water] guns,” young Binkley said, asserting that the boss doesn't mind.

That was enough to prompt the Area Office on Aging to keep four local senior citizens' centers open after-hours to serve as Emergency Cooling Centers - East Toledo Family Center until 9 p.m., Kahle Senior Center until 7 p.m., and Zablocki Senior Center until 4:30 p.m., in Toledo, and the Maumee Senior Center until 9 p.m. Those four will be open late again today and will be joined by a fifth, the Hancock Senior Center in Oregon, until 6 p.m.

“We had about 20 people more than usual during the day, and I expect more people [today]; it's going to be warmer,” said Mary Wolff, director of the East Toledo center, 1101 White St.

“Most of them don't have air conditioning. Usually on Tuesdays, we probably have between 50 and 60 and today we probably had between 70 and 80.”

“It's not just for the elderly - families can come too. We have games and cards, no planned activities, but things to do if they want to. We also provide transportation [to the center],” she said.

At the Bowman Y Aquatic Center, 2018 Tremainsville Rd., Heather Devir, pool manager, said: “[Monday] wasn't as busy. [Yesterday] the crowds really hit us.”

Shirley Morehead, dangling her feet in the pool, said she couldn't stay comfortable. “It's freezing on the inside in the air conditioning, but so hot outside.”

Tom Moore and Jimmy Hill lounged in the swimming pool in Mr. Moore's backyard as they watched his father build a wooden deck around the pool.

“I drank a lot of pop and ate Slurpees,” the 18-year-old Mr. Moore said as he and his friend bought 44-oz. Mountain Dews at a West Toledo Speedway station.

Today's Ozone Action! Day will be the fifth of the year for Lucas and Wood counties, and the 14th of the year for Monroe County and six other Detroit-area counties.

The alerts are called on days when weather conditions will be particularly conducive to ozone formation in the surface air.

While beneficial higher in the atmosphere as a filter for harmful sun rays, surface ozone is a contributor to smog and can cause respiratory problems. It forms when hydrocarbon pollution reacts with oxygen in the air, a reaction that bright sunlight accelerates.

To minimize ozone formation, citizens are asked to minimize driving, avoid fueling cars or using equipment with small gasoline-powered engines before evening, and avoid using charcoal lighter fluid or oil-based paints. Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority bus service is free on Ozone Action! Days.

Excessive ozone levels in the air could lead to a violation of federal air quality standards, which likely would lead to the imposition of costly, and in some cases cumbersome, pollution-control measures.

Toledo exceeded the ozone standard twice during 1999, Karen Granata, chief of air resources for Toledo's division of environmental services, said, so two more “exceedances” this year would result in a violation - but so far this summer, there have been none.

She and Greg Gettum, the Ozone Action! program coordinator for the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, said today will be the Toledo-area's first such alert to occur in August since 1996.

The 160-degree heat that can develop inside vehicles within minutes is potentially deadly for infants and toddlers.

And People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals issued a reminder that the heat in a vehicle can become lethal quickly for animals too.

The group urged pet owners to keep their animals indoors, if possible. If not, provide shade and ample water.

And there's something else to think about. The record low for yesterday's date is 48 set in 1918, and today's is 46 in 1971.

Blade staff writers David Patch and Kate Moran contributed to this report.



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