Summer Heat Wave 2012: Record Temperatures May Burn Northeast's First Day Of Summer
NEW YORK -- The official start of summer brought temperatures in the high 90s to the Eastern Seaboard on Wednesday, setting records in some spots and getting awfully close in others, with people wilting at graduation ceremonies, students trying to learn in sweltering classrooms and authorities warning folks to check on elderly neighbors.
The hot spell arrived right on time – on the longest day of the year – in a region that's home to some of the nation's most densely populated cities. Record temperatures were reached at all three New York City-area airports, along with Connecticut's Bradley International Airport and the cities of Burlington, Vt., and Houlton, Maine, according to the National Weather Service.
"It's not a day for the elderly to be out walking, I can tell you that," said Nancy Baker, 69, as she watched the PGA Tour's Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn., from under the shade of a large oak tree near the first tee.
Health officials across the Northeast warned residents to drink water, stay out of the sun and in air conditioning, and to check on elderly neighbors and pets. Public cooling centers were set up in dozens of cities for those without air conditioning.
Several relatives of high school graduates were treated for heat exhaustion at an outdoor ceremony in North Bergen, N.J., and taken to a hospital. Ambulances were on standby at the event, which was held outside to accommodate about 5,000 people, said Capt. Gerald Sanzari of the North Bergen Police Department.
Similar scenes took place in Connecticut, where nearly two dozen people suffered heat-related symptoms while attending high school graduations in New Britain and Stamford. Fifteen people who suffered from heat exhaustion or fainting at the New Britain High School graduation received treatment at hospitals, said David Koscuk of the New Britain EMS. Stamford EMS Capt. Bill Ackley told the Stamford Advocate that eight people were treated or taken to the hospital from the Stamford High School graduation.
In Howell, N.J., school officials made Wednesday the last day of the school year instead of Thursday, citing the heat. And at nearby Wall High School, people attending the graduation ceremony were able to watch a remote broadcast inside the air-conditioned building.
According to the weather service, it hit 94 degrees at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, passing the 93-degree mark set in 1995. The 98-degree temperatures at LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport passed records set in 1953, when highs reached 96 at LaGuardia and 97 at Newark.
In New England, the mercury hit 97 degrees at Bradley airport in Hartford, Conn., breaking the 1995 record of 96 degrees. Record temperatures were also seen in Burlington, Vt., and Houlton, Maine, which reached 95 degrees and 90 degrees, up from 94 and 89.
Even places that didn't break records were extremely hot. In Washington, the airports topped out at 98, one degree shy of setting new heat marks. The mercury in Philadelphia rose to 97 degrees, one degree short of the record set in 1931.
"You're talking about almost 15 degrees above normal," said Kristin Kline, a weather service meteorologist in Mount Holly, N.J.
Every state in the Lower 48 except for North Dakota was forecast to have 90-degree weather until Saturday, according to a model by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency in charge of weather, climate and oceans.
Mail carrier Connie Vincent was already sweating as she began her rounds in a residential neighborhood in Manchester, Conn., Wednesday morning.
"There's nothing you can do," she said as she dabbed her face with wet washcloths. "Tomorrow's my day off, thank God. I've just got to make it through today."
Some people in Boston headed to Malibu Beach, a harbor beach south of downtown, to try to beat the heat.
Retired teacher Mary O'Brien sat on a bench, armed with a bottle of water and a magazine, enjoying the afternoon as a breeze came off the saltwater. But Genesis Langham, 38, said heading to the waterfront with a family friend and her sons, ages 6 and 1, wasn't the best idea.
"If your goal is to stay cool, stay inside," she said.
In a rare bending of the rules, the Metro in Washington, D.C., said passengers on Wednesday and Thursday would be allowed to drink water, an exception to their no-drinks policy.
Deborah Otchere, 59, mapped out a tree-lined route to work and brought a change of clothes to her job as a secretary in a Washington law firm. Among her traveling supplies was a partially frozen bottle of water.
"You live here long enough, you know how to prepare," she said.
More than 450 cooling centers were being opened around New York City, which is under a hot weather advisory. Mayor Michael Bloomberg encouraged people without air conditioning to seek out the cooler spaces or visit the city's beaches.
The city's 1.1 million public school students are still in session for another week, and just 64 percent of classrooms are air-conditioned. The city is leaving it up to teachers and administrators to monitor the situation in each school, Bloomberg said.
"There's nothing unsafe about it. It may be a tiny bit uncomfortable, but these are young, strong people, and we're not going to ask anybody to stay in a building where we think it becomes dangerous," he said.
In downtown Providence, R.I., at the central bus terminal, a worker for the Salvation Army – red-faced and hot herself – was handing out free bottles of water, reminding people to stay hydrated. Users of public transit were enjoying free service on buses and trolleys, offered on days when health officials declare air quality to be unhealthy and driving is discouraged.
On New York's Long Island, Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk County SPCA, cautioned against keeping pets in vehicles, noting temperatures can reach 120 degrees within minutes.
"Your pet can quickly suffer brain damage or die from heatstroke when trapped in these high temperatures," Gross said.
In Manhattan's Washington Square Park, women and small children took off their shoes to wade in a fountain. But the main attraction was a promotion by Nestle to give away a free ice cream cone to anyone who would do the hula hoop.
Tiny tourist Katie Phan, visiting New York with her family from Orange, Calif., joined several dozen people who took the frozen-treat bait. The 8-year-old expertly spun three hoops – and munched on a melting cone – all at once. It made her mother Terry proud.
"I had no idea she could do that," she said.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jessica Gresko in Washington, Patrick Walters in Philadelphia, Frank Eltman in Garden City, N.Y., Karen Matthews, Samantha Gross, Tom Hays, Deepti Hajela and Verena Dobnik in New York City, Mary Esch in Albany, N.Y., Stephen Singer in Hartford, Conn., Dave Collins in West Hartford, Conn., Erika Niedowski in Providence, R.I., and Shannon Young and Bridget Murphy in Boston.
Gila National Forest Fire
This image provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows a May 29, 2012 photo, of the massive blaze in the Gila National Forest is seen from Cliff, N.M. Fire officials said Wednesday the wildfire has burned more than 265 square miles has become the largest fire in New Mexico history. (AP Photo/U.S. Forest Service)
Gila National Forest Fire
In this Tuesday, May 29, 2012 photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service, a firefighter walks along a burn out line as part of an effort to contain the nation's largest wildfire in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. More than 1,200 firefighters are battling the blaze that has charred 340 square miles, or 218,000 acres, of terrain in the rugged mountains and canyons of southwestern New Mexico. (AP Photo/U.S. Forest Service, Mark Pater)
Little Bear Fire
Smoke billows from the Little Bear fire in southeastern New Mexico near Ruidoso, Saturday, June 9, 2012. Spanning only a few acres on Wednesday, the Little Bear fire began to grow Friday as spot fires formed outside established fire lines due to windy conditions. By Saturday morning, about 10,000 acres had been charred northwest of the mountain community of Ruidoso. (AP Photo/Roswell Daily Record, Mark Wilson)
Luce County, MI Fire
In this Saturday, May 26, 2012 photo provided by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, a wildfire burns in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The fire that began last week has burned 95 structures, with a third of them being homes or cabins. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said Monday, May 28, 2012, that the Duck Lake Fire has burned more than 22,000 acres, or 34 square miles, in Luce County. (AP Photo/Michigan Department of Natural Resources)
San Bernardino Fire
Firefighter Scott Abraham, of the San Bernardino County Fire Department, sprays water as his crew tries to keep the fire from crossing a San Diego County road Friday, May 25, 2012, near Julian, Calif. The blaze broke out Thursday afternoon east of Julian near Banner Grade. About 100 homes were temporarily evacuated in the Shelter Valley area along Highway 78 during the early stages of the fire but that order was lifted late Thursday. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
CORRECTS DATE - Firefighters battle a wind-driven fire that has destroyed at least two homes and a number of outbuildings in Topaz Ranch Estates, south of Gardnerville, Nev., on Tuesday, May 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Cathleen Allison)
Fire burns through trees on the Hewlett wildfire in the Poudre Canyon northwest of Fort Collins, Colo., on Thursday, May 17, 2012. More than 50 homes were evacuated on Thursday. The fire has grown from 1.5 square miles to 8 square miles in the last day as erratic wind gusts of up to 50 mph moved into the area fueled by thunderstorms that didn┬'t produce rain. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
Smoke from the wild fire can be seen from Spring Valley as the sun goes down and firefighters try to protect the town of Crown King Wednesday, May 16, 2012 in Crown King, Ariz. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Tom Tingle) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT; MAGS OUT; NO SALES
The Gladiator Fire burns in the Bradshaw Mountains in Prescott National Forest, Ariz. on Wednesday, May 16, 2012. Authorities are worried that flames from the Gladiator Fire will get past a fire line that's about a mile west of the historic mining town of Crown King, fire incident spokeswoman Loretta Benavidez said Tuesday night. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Wallace) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT; MAGS OUT; NO SALES
Lower North Fork Wildfire
Smoke envelops trees on a ridge in the Lower North Fork Wildfire as it burns in the foothills community of Conifer, Colo., southwest of Denver on Tuesday, March 27, 2012. Firefighters are now able to actively battle the blaze on the ground that started on Monday and has already destroyed at least 16 homes in the rugged terrain. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Emergency personnel respond to a wildfire in Reno, Nev. Friday, Nov. 18, 2011. Nevada firefighters are battling a wind-whipped wildfire that has already burned several homes and caused several injuries. Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez sayfire crews are having a tough time "getting ahead of" the 400-acre blaze. He also says flames broke off into two areas in Caughlin Ranch. Hernandez says about a dozen homes have burned. (AP Photo/The Reno Gazette-Journal, Tim Dunn)
A firefighter tries to keep back the flames, whipped by strong winds, in Reno, Nev. Friday, Nov. 18, 2011. Nevada firefighters are battling a wind-whipped wildfire that has already burned several homes and caused several injuries. Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez sayfire crews are having a tough time "getting ahead of" the 400-acre blaze. He also says flames broke off into two areas in Caughlin Ranch. Hernandez says about a dozen homes have burned. (AP Photo/The Reno Gazette-Journal, Tim Dunn)
A tree burns in the ravine along Manzanita Lane near Broken Arrow in Reno, Nev. Friday, Nov. 18, 2011. Nevada firefighters are battling a wind-whipped wildfire that has already burned several homes and caused several injuries. Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez sayfire crews are having a tough time "getting ahead of" the 400-acre blaze. He also says flames broke off into two areas in Caughlin Ranch. Hernandez says about a dozen homes have burned. (AP Photo/The Reno Gazette-Journal, Liz Margerum) NEVADA APPEAL OUT; NO SALES
In this Sept. 5, 2011 file photo firefighters battle a wildfire on Highway 71 near Smithville, Texas. Despite a recent lull in fire activity statewide, the threat remains in parts of Texas, so the Texas Forest Service is not declaring an end to the wildfire season that started Nov. 15, 2010. (AP Photo/Erich Schlegel, File)
File - In this Sept. 5, 2011 file photo, firefighters battle a large wildfire near Smithville, Texas. Long before this month's historic wildfires in Texas, the state's forest service came up with a $20.4 million plan to stop the flames from starting or tamp them out before small blazes grew deadly and destructive. Three years later, the plan is still only half-funded. (AP Photo/Erich Schlegel, File)
File - In this Sept. 5, 2011 file photo firefighters battle a wildfire on Highway 71 near Smithville, Texas. Scorching temperatures, strong winds and dry vegetation are turning Texas wildfires into fast and furious dangers that hop from place to place within hours, even minutes, and give residents little time to flee. Now it
Okefenokee Swamp Fire
In this June 9, 2011 photo provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Honey Prairie fire is seen burning in the Okefenokee Swamp in southeast Georgia. A wildfire started by lightning in the Okefenokee Swamp is still smoldering and sputtering six months after it started. (AP Photo/ US Fish and Wildlife Service, Howard McCullough)
In this photo taken Oct. 3, 2011, fire and smoke cast a glow as a wildfire burns behind Tuscarora, Nev. about 52 miles northwest of Elko, Nev. (AP Photo/Elko Daily Free Press, Ross Andr├ęson)
In this photo taken Oct. 3, 2011, a firefighter takes a photograph of a crew member as they wait to for orders to move in for ground work as the Dunphy Complex Fire burns just outside Tuscarora, Nev., about 52 miles northwest of Elko, Nev. (AP Photo/Elko Daily Free Press Ross Andr├ęson)
Pagami Creek Fire
In this aerial photo, an area of the Pagami Creek wildfire shows active burning and creates a large smoke plume on Tuesday Sept. 13, 2011 in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northeastern Minnesota. The haze from the fire was heavy enough that some people reported burning eyes and difficulty breathing in the Chicago area, 600 miles south of the forest fire, the National Weather Service said. (AP Photo/The Duluth News-Tribune, Clint Austin)
A wildfire is seen at a national reserve in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, Sept. 9, 2011. Drought, high temperatures and low humidity have caused wildfires at several places around Brasilia, according to officials. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
A large wildfire to the southwest of Tehachapi, Calif. burns on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2011. A single-engine Cessna 210 went down in Blackburn Canyon near the small community of Tehachapi, sparking a raging brush fire that sent up a huge plume of smoke visible for miles around, according to Kern County fire department spokesman Cary Wright. (AP Photo/Dave Mills)
Possum Kingdom Lake Fire
A wildfire roars through dry trees near Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011. Texas and Oklahoma are in the grips of a record-setting drought, and a summer of soaring temperatures and little rain has meant the wildfire season, which usually ends in spring, didn't end this year. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
A wildfire burns near 63rd and Sooner Road on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011, in Edmond, Okla. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Chris Landsberger)
Air Depot Wildfire
Cattle move to avoid the flames of a large grass fire in a farm off of Air Depot between 63rd and Wilshire in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011. Authorities have evacuated a larger area in Oklahoma City where a stiff winds and dry conditions fueled a wildfire that destroyed several homes. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Paul Hellstern)
Santa Barbara Wildfire
In this Nov. 14, 2008 file photo, a firefighter sprays water on the flames as a mansion burns during a wildfire in Santa Barbara, Calif. As part of the recently approved California budget, owners of rural homes will be assessed a $150 annul fee for fire protection covered by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
The Monument Fire
The Monument fire burns Thursday afternoon June 16, 2011 near Hereford, Ariz. Authorities say the Monument fire has charred more than 9,300 acres or 14 square miles. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Pat Shannahan)
Sierra Vista Wildfire
Fire trucks escape the flames near South Andalusian Way after the fire jumped State Route 92 as a wildfire burns on Thursday, June 16, 2011 near Sierra Vista, Ariz. (AP Photo/Arizona Daily Star, Dean Knuth)
The Wallow fire burns towards Eagar, Ariz, north of Greer, Ariz,, Wednesday night June 8, 2011. The fire in eastern Arizona that already forced thousands from their homes headed Wednesday for a pair of transmission lines that supply electricity to hundreds of thousands of people as far east as Texas. (AP Photo/Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic)
In this June 10, 2011 file photo, a forest burns during a backburn operation to fight the Wallow Fire in Nutrioso, Ariz. The West's 2012 wildfire season exploded in earnest last month with a wind-whipped blaze that killed three people in rugged alpine canyon country near Denver. At its peak, it took a 700-strong federal firefighting team a week of labor, day and night, to tame the blaze _ and other states throughout the West took notice.Fire experts say this year's drought, low snowpack and record-high temperatures in much of the West portend a dangerous installment of what has become year-round wildfire threat. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
Arizona Wildfire Is Largest in State's History
The massive wildfire in Arizona is now 750 square miles and beginning to threaten towns in New Mexico.
Wildfires Sweep Through Colorado
Firefighters struggle to battle a huge fire in an inaccessible forest near Fort Collins, Colorado.