An index on the heat of last week

Published 10:41 pm Thursday, July 25, 2019

The power grid, and the rest of us, can breathe a sigh of relief, while air conditioners around Suffolk get some more relaxed usage now that we’ve made it to the other side of the massive heat wave that scorched us recently.

Now, I spent the first eight-plus years of my life growing up between Florida, northeast North Carolina and Virginia Beach, and still stayed in Virginia after that, so I’m no stranger to a hot summer, and coping and making the best of it. Still, when you start sweating after 30 seconds outside, it’s too hot.

To let out a bit of my inner weather geek, I took a look at some numbers for the Friday through Monday (July 19-22) stretch of heat in Suffolk, using data gathered at Suffolk Executive Airport. They may not do the heat justice and what it actually felt like to the rest of us outside, but the cold, hard data offers some hot and swampy perspective.


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For Friday, when Suffolk and the Hampton Roads region went into the National Weather Service’s excessive heat warning, the high temperature reached 94 degrees at 4:55 p.m., with the heat index also reaching its high of the day at 108 degrees. For most of that afternoon, the heat index fluctuated between 102 and 108 degrees, with humidity levels staying in the 50 to 60 percent range during that period.

Saturday and Sunday, it felt even more like a blast furnace, when the high temperature each day reached 97 degrees — on Saturday, it reached the high for the day between 2:55 and 4:55 p.m. The heat index reached 113 degrees between 12:35 and 1:15 p.m. Saturday as the air temperature fluctuated from 94 to 96 degrees. Sunday, the heat index reached 112 at 2:35 p.m., when the air temperature was at 96.

Monday’s temperature at midnight was 83 degrees and went up to 97 degrees between 2:55 p.m. and 4:35 p.m., though the heat index stayed lower thanks to lower humidity and a bit of a breeze from the southwest. The heat index strained to get above 100, but it did reach 104 at several points during the day.

Temperatures began to fall during and after Monday evening’s thunderstorm, but the humidity jumped to above 90 percent overnight and into the morning.

Humidity levels remained high throughout the day Tuesday, reaching 100 percent for stretches at a time but with temperatures falling from the upper to lower 70s in the afternoon, and into the upper 60s by early evening, it made the wet air a little more bearable.

One thing that caught my attention were the overnight low temperatures throughout the weekend — Friday night into Saturday morning, Saturday night into Sunday morning, and Sunday evening into Monday morning. For each, the low never got below 77 degrees. Friday night into Saturday morning, temperatures stayed in the low 80s until 4:15 a.m. The following overnight, it stayed at 80 or above until around 3 a.m., and the Sunday night-Monday morning overnight, it stayed at 80 or above until through 1:15 a.m. The overnight lows for each were 77, 78 and 77 degrees.

Still, you might be saying to yourself that you didn’t need to see any numbers to know that it was hot. And, you’d be right. No temperature or heat index reading could give an adequate personal discomfort reading. Mine would have been off the scale.