Valley bakes as summer hits its stride

The Roanoke Times | Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Temperatures soared into the 90s on Tuesday, breaking some records and baking city streets. The heat index exceeded 100 degrees.

Kristen Calhoun, 17 (from left), Zoie Austin, 6, and Cheyenne Worley, 17, lounge in the Roanoke River at Green Hill Park in Roanoke County on Tuesday afternoon. Temperatures are forecast to moderate a little by the end of the week. Photo by Kyle Green | The Roanoke Times

Kristen Calhoun, 17 (from left), Zoie Austin, 6, and Cheyenne Worley, 17, lounge in the Roanoke River at Green Hill Park in Roanoke County on Tuesday afternoon. Temperatures are forecast to moderate a little by the end of the week. Photo by Kyle Green | The Roanoke Times

Translation: It was hot. Really hot.

“It’s definitely miserable,” said R.T. Flora.

He should know. As a Roanoke Fire-EMS captain with 22 years on the job, Flora has experience with high temperatures.

Just how hot it felt Tuesday depended on location and humidity levels. At Flora’s Station 5 on Orange Avenue, a pocket thermometer registered 100 degrees.

But with moisture saturating the sunny sky in an oppressive haze, it felt as hot as, well. …

“First thing that comes to mind, you’re not going to be able to print,” Flora quipped.

No matter. Ask Greg Barton, an American Electric Power employee out repairing an underground transmission line in downtown Roanoke.

“It’s hot as hell,” he said, with the authority of a man who spends much of his time working in the depths of the earth.

“Way too hot,” said Richard Diekman, 25, an Appalachian Trail through-hiker on his 50th day out of Georgia. “You get out there and the sweat just soaks everything.”

Even the coolest parts of the day were hot. A morning low of 78 in Roanoke and 71 in Blacksburg set new records for the highest lows for the date, the National Weather Service reported. The high in Roanoke reached 95 by 5 p.m., short of the record 102 set in 1930. Blacksburg’s high of 89 came within 2 degrees of breaking a 1966 record for July 12.

Appalachian Power Co., the unit of AEP that serves much of Southwest Virginia, said the electricity grid had enough power to meet demand. The utility reached a peak flow of 6,211 megawatts at 4 p.m. Monday, lower than the record 6,759 megawatts set in the summer of 2007, according to spokesman John Shepelwich.

“So far, we haven’t had any problems,” he said.

In Vinton, the unofficial temperature rose to 98 at the town’s municipal pool, where nearly 50 children and their parents flocked about 1:30 p.m. in search of respite.

Mike Shell, 26, of Vinton came to the pool with friend Corey Davis, 27, of Roanoke.

“You just want to be pretty much anywhere there’s a cool body of water,” Shell said.

Temperatures were forecast to drop by week’s end, but officials cautioned against overexertion nevertheless.

“People need to be drinking a lot of fluids and taking more frequent breaks,” said Bill Manuel, a weather service meteorologist.

“If you have health issues, it’s not going to take much exertion to cause more problems.”

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