Area looks for break from the heat


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000

The dog days of summer have arrived, panting and gasping for air.

It's not your imagination: It really does feel hotter than usual, even for late July in Florida.

Factoring in the humidity, the "feels-like" temperature reached a brutal 109 degrees at 3 p.m. Thursday at Tampa International Airport. More of the same is expected through the weekend.

Forecasters expect the Tampa Bay area to cool off a bit next week, although the phrase "cool off" is relative; the temperature and humidity should "cool" to their normal summertime levels.

Thursday's scorching heat prompted the National Weather Service to warn people, particularly the elderly, to avoid strenuous outdoor activity and to stay in the shade, or even better, indoors in the air conditioning.

"With this added humidity, the "feels-like' temperature has been hovering around 105 for most of the afternoon," said Russell Henes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

The problem is that the wind keeps coming out of the west instead of from the east as it normally would this time of year. This persistent westerly wind is bringing moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, keeping the humidity up.

That means it won't cool down at night. Local temperatures early Thursday got no lower than 82, when they normally would have dropped into the mid-70s.

At some point, probably early next week, the wind will shift and the humidity will drop.

"But there's no indication that will happen this weekend," Henes said.

High temperatures are expected to stay around 90 degrees for at least the next five days. The humidity isn't going anywhere, so the weather should stay muggy.

Some cooling rains might help, and scattered showers and thunderstorms remain a possibility. Weekend forecasts call for a 50 percent chance of rain throughout the Tampa Bay area.

In the meantime, people will keep breaking into a sweat every time they walk outside.

"Yeah, but it's a dry heat," Will Fournier said with weary sarcasm as he waited for a bus Thursday in St. Petersburg's Williams Park. "Like the man said, it's not the heat, it's the humidity. It's murder out here."

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