NEW ORLEANS (AP) — With summer barely begun, forecasters are already issuing heat advisories for much of the Southeast.
A heat index of 103 degrees was expected Monday in southeast Mississippi, south central and southwest Alabama. And the National Weather Service issued heat advisories Monday for all of southeast Georgia and southeast South Carolina. Temperatures across parts of the region were forecast to climb into the high 90s, with possible heat index values of 105 to 112 degrees.
GEORGIA AND SOUTH CAROLINA
In Atlanta, city officials announced Monday that 11 public swimming pools will remain free for everyone until Thursday due to extreme heat. The National Weather Service was projecting highs in the mid-90s in the Atlanta area on Monday. The weather service also said that in parts of south Georgia, the heat index - the soaring temperatures combined with high humidity - was expected to reach 105 degrees.
Wes Tyler of the South Carolina State Climatology Office said certain aspects of the heat wave are unusual, but not unprecedented. He said longer daylight hours and a stretch of high pressure systems have contributed to the higher temperatures.
"We've had 100 degree days in May before. It's not uncommon, but it's unusual to have a stretch of 100 degree heat this early in June," Tyler said. "The only place that you can really escape the heat here in South Carolina is in probably the mountain valleys near moving water, or some of the higher summits that are forested."
Vince Mannon, owner of Air Man Air Conditioning of Hernando, Mississippi, says that his company is doing double its normal level of business, and that heat-related failures have picked up noticeably as temperatures warmed in the last two weeks.
"We're overwhelmed," Mannon said.
As temperatures rise, he said, the pressure rises in an air conditioning unit, stressing the tubing, motor and compressor.
"To keep from leaving people without air, we're working from 6 in the morning until 10 o'clock at night," Mannon said.
Mannon said there's not much he can do to stay cool while solving the cooling problems of others.
"I just make sure mine's working good when I get home," he said.
In southwest Alabama, the weather service said the combination of heat and humidity would make it feel like it was 108 degrees in spots.
The hot weather worries Myra Page, who directs a nutrition program for about 80 elderly residents in Andalusia, Alabama, located just north of the Florida line.
"We're just getting started. We don't know what we're facing with these high temperatures," Page said.
About 40 people regularly visit the city's air-conditioned senior activity center for meals and to play games like cards, she said, and workers regularly stress the importance of drinking plenty of water and other healthy liquids when the sun is blazing.
"That helps a lot, just to remind them," she said.
But many elderly people living in the country can't make it to town regularly and also lack air conditioning. So workers who deliver food daily to the 39 participants in a meals-on-wheels program also routinely check on the health of elderly people and, sometimes, help get fans to people who don't have them.
"We're just going to take it day by day," Page said. "That's all we can do."
John Moore III, a forecaster with the National Weather Service's office in Memphis, Tennessee, says it's unusual for temperatures there to rise so high in June.
He says the normal high temperature in Memphis in late June is usually about 90 degrees, while the forecast highs early this week are 95 degrees for Monday, 98 degrees for Tuesday and 97 degrees for Wednesday.
"That's getting up toward record-breaking heat levels," Moore said.
The good news is that for Memphis and surrounding parts of Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi, the heat is likely to break on Wednesday. Moore said forecasters expect a cold front will arrive that day, bringing clouds that will also cut the heat.
Hot weather spurs popsicle sales, said Jonathan Mills, the owner of LunaPops of Hillsborough, North Carolina. The bad news is that it makes production harder.
LunaPops makes small-batch frozen pops that are sold in grocery and specialty stores.
"When it really, really is hot, in the popsicle business, this is a good thing," Mills said. "People will empty the shelves and buy all our products and they have to be refilled."
The worst weather for sales turns out not to be cold, but rain, Mills said.
But heat also means that the company's water chiller struggles to cool water enough to freeze for pops. Mills said workers have to feed ice into the chiller, and even that's not enough.
"If it goes up to 100, our capacity goes down 25 percent," Mills said.
Associated Press writer Jeff Amy in Jackson, Mississippi; Phillip Lucas in Atlanta; Bill Fuller in New Orleans; and Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, contributed to this report.