NWS Says It’s Not A Heat Wave, But High Temps Still Taking A Toll

Jul 25, 2016

Technically we’re not in a heat wave, yet.  

National Weather Service officials in Pittsburgh said that’s because, in Moon Township where their office is located, the temperature has not hit 90 degrees for at least three days in a row.

“We’ve had a string of hot days … and that’s kind of led to people talking about it,” said meteorologist Fred McMullen.

McMullen said the remainder of July and into the first week of August is expected to remain above average because of the heat dome that scorched much of the Midwest and is now moving into the mid-Atlantic region.

“It’s just a bubble of warm air and then you combine the warm air with the strong sunshine and humidity,” he said. “You’re going to kind of get this period of above-normal temperatures.”

It’s still not hot enough to beat Pittsburgh's 2012 heat wave, where temperatures hit 90 or above for nine days in July.

But heat wave or not, the high temperatures and humidity can take a toll.

That is especially true for the region’s homeless population.

Members of Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net program, which reaches out to the homeless population living on the street and operates three drop-in centers, has worked to hand out water bottles and other hot weather necessities to people on the streets.

“It affects the homeless population in a way different from people who have houses,” said Operation Safety Net Outreach Coordinator Chris Roach, “because they’re unable to step out of the heat. They’re unable to step away from their situation.”

Roach said in the summer, between 300 to 500 homeless people live on the streets of Allegheny County. The three drop in centers, located in Uptown, the North Side and Downtown, have seen an increase in people stopping by, he said.

“It’s really important, especially mid-day, with the extreme heat that people are taking shelter,” Roach said.

Additionally, he said public libraries have been a helpful resource for those trying to escape the heat. Roach also urged people to be more aware of those who may need help and to not hesitate to call 911 in an emergency. 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has advised Pennsylvania workplaces to make sure employees are safe from the heat by providing shade, water breaks and rest time when needed.

For the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium's Lead Mammal Keeper Kathy Suthard, staying cool is especially important since she spends 90 percent of her work day outside. She said she and other zoo employees make efforts to keep cool by walking in the shade and always having water handy.

“We look out for each other,” she said.

The heat can be difficult for some of the animals too. 

Suthard said to help keep the animals cool, zookeepers put fans and hoses in some enclosures, in addition to making food-filled ice pops.

“For some of the animals, we’re doing the old fashioned trick of putting a huge tub of ice in front of a fan to make natural air conditioning,” she said.

And for some animals, a little heat isn't a big deal. 

“This is the kind of weather that the young male tiger loves,” she said. “He just swims around and all you see is the top of his head. He just sits there with his head out of the water.”

She said the anteaters and flamingos also love to splash around in the heat.

McMullen with the National Weather Service said the heat dome covering the East Coast will hover through the first week of August and eventually move south.