Get Ready, East Coast: You're Next in Extreme Heat's Sights

Super-high temps are working their way from Midwest to Northeast, mid-Atlantic states
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 28, 2023 1:15 PM CDT
Get Ready, East Coast: You're Next in Extreme Heat's Sights
A tour guide fans herself while working in Times Square as temperatures rise on Thursday in New York City. Nearly 60% of the US population is under a heat advisory or flood warning or watch as the high temperatures spread and new areas are told to expect severe storms.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Nearly 200 million people in the United States, or 60% of the US population, are under a heat advisory or flood warning or watch and have been since Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Dangerous heat is forecast to "engulf" much of the eastern half of the United States Friday as extreme temperatures spread from the Midwest into the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, where some residents will see their hottest temperatures of the year. Although much of the country doesn't cool much on normal summer nights, night temperatures are forecast to stay hotter than usual, prompting excessive heat warnings from the Plains to the East Coast, per the AP. From Thursday to Friday, the number of people under a heat advisory rose from 180 million to 184 million, and the number of people under a flood warning or watch dropped from 17 million to 10 million.

Moisture moving into the Southwest has cooled the southernmost counties of California and parts of southern Arizona some, but excessive heat warnings remain for much of the region. On top of the heat, severe thunderstorms are forecast for parts of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, west to the Middle Missouri Valley through Saturday morning. The prediction for continued excessive heat comes as the World Meteorological Organization and the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service declared July 2023 the hottest month on record this week. Scientists have long warned that climate change, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and certain agricultural practices, will lead to more and prolonged bouts of extreme weather.

On Thursday, heat and humidity in major cities along the East Coast, including Philly, New York, and Washington, DC, created a "real feel" temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Forecasters expect several records may break Friday, with temperatures 10 to 15 degrees above average. In the Southwest and southern Plains, oppressive temperatures have been a blanket for weeks. One meteorologist based in New Mexico called the prolonged period of temperatures over 100 degrees unprecedented. "They probably aren't going to have a lot of sympathy for the rest of the country," said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center. Due to the extreme heat, some of the nation's large power grids and utilities are under stress, which could affect Americans' ability to cool off.

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In New York City, utility Con Edison sent out a text blast asking residents to be frugal with air conditioning to conserve electricity. Overtaxing an electrical grid can mean blackouts, which aren't just an inconvenience, but can lead to equipment failures and major pollution as equipment restarts. The country's largest power grid, PJM Interconnection, declared a level-one energy emergency alert for its 13-state grid on Wednesday, meaning the company had concerns about ability to provide enough electricity. "PJM currently has enough generation to meet forecast demand, but operators continue to monitor the grid conditions for any changes," spokesperson Jeffrey Shields said on Thursday. The dangerous heat peaks in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and Midwest Friday and Saturday before a cold front is expected to bring some relief Sunday and into next week.

(More heat wave stories.)

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