Blistering heat has forced air conditioning man Clayton Cornell to do something that businesses never like to do.
"We are having to turn people away," said Mr. Cornell, owner of Reliable Heating and Air Conditioning. "We used to get 80 calls a week during the summer. Now we're getting about 150."
Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press Youths run up the steps against the flow of water in the Passage fountains near the Tennessee Aquarium on Wednesday afternoon. Temperatures were reaching into the nineties, and the forecast for Thursday is calling for more of the same, if not hotter.
Relief from the heat will not come anytime soon for Chattanooga area residents. On Wednesday, the National Weather Service said temperatures reached 98 degrees -- eight degrees higher than the 2009 temperature for the day.
Paul Barys, the meteorologist at WRCB-TV, said temperatures today could reach 98 degrees before dropping to 92 degrees on Friday. Thunderstorms are expected late Friday afternoon and into Saturday morning, he said.
Robert Garcia, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Ga., said a high pressure system covering the Northeast is partially to blame for the high heat, low humidity combo. Usually winds from the south and east that have passed over the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico cool the Southeast, but the high-pressure system from the north is shoving hot winds south.
The high pressure system is sending temperatures in the Northeast soaring into the 100s.
Lyle Wilson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn., said that a reasonably low dew point -- meaning low humidity -- is keeping the heat index to only one or two degrees above the temperature.
Still, people living in bigger cities may have to deal with even more heat, he said.
HOW TO STAY SAFE IN THE HEAT
* Avoid exposure to direct heat from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
* Drink two to four glasses of water for every hour you are outside.
* Limit indoor activity if you are not in an air-conditioned building.
* Be aware of people who are at high risk for overheating: infants, children, people older than 65, people with chronic heart diseases, diabetics and obese people.
* Never leave children or animals in the car alone.
* Be aware than certain antibiotics can make you more sensitive to the sun. Consult your pharmacist to see if your medication will cause light-sensitivity.
Source: Dr. Melanie Blake, Erlanger hospital
KEEPING YOUR HOUSE COOL
1. Set a sprinkler or lawn hose near an air conditioner so that it sprays cool water directly on the unit; this will help a working unit having trouble keeping up with extreme temperatures to run one or two degrees cooler.
2. Check to make sure you have proper adequate attic insulation and ventilation. If not maintained, an attic can reach temperatures of more than 130 degrees, causing houses to get hotter.
3. Change the filter in your air conditioning unit.
Source: Clayton Cornell, Reliable Heating and Air Conditioning
The Chattanooga Salvation Army needs new boxed fans or money:
* Bring new boxed fans to the Salvation Army, 800 McCallie Ave., or the Salvation Army Family Store, 4104 Ringgold Road.
* Monetary donations can either be mailed to 822 McCallie Ave. and marked "Beat the Heat" or given online at www.csarmy.org.
"It's not uncommon for people living in urban areas with lots of concrete and asphalt to experience higher temperatures," Mr. Wilson said.
On Wednesday, Tanya Wilkinson took her 16-month-old son Luke to the fountains at Coolidge Park. Aside from a small pool on her deck, coming to the fountain is the only time they spend outside.
"We have a jogging stroller that we can't even use right now," she said. "Even at 7 p.m. it's too hot to go running."
Red-headed Luke even wears swim clothes with SPF protection and a wide-brimmed hat to keep from getting sunburned, she said.
But it is not just the people who venture outside who are fighting the heat. Even volunteer groups are working overtime to provide shelter and water for people who may not be able to afford air conditioning.
Jens Christensen of the Chattanooga Community Kitchen said he noticed an influx of visitors in the afternoons during past few weeks, people trying to escape the heat.
Currently the kitchen is keeping its regular hours of operation, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., but there is an option to keep doors open overnight in the event that temperatures rise enough for the medical staff on-site to decide that nighttime temperatures are hazardous, he said.
"I think the big response is to just have an open door for people to escape the afternoon heat and have accessible cold water," Christensen said.
To help low-income people, the Chattanooga Salvation Army is holding its "Beat the Heat" campaign.
Kimberly George, director of marketing and development at the Salvation Army, said the two-part campaign consists of a "hydration station" with volunteers passing out cold water on McCallie Avenue and a giveaway of new boxed fans to those who need them. So far, Ms. George said, the Salvation Army has given away 76 new fans. As of Wednesday, they only had one left.
Though some are sweltering through the summer months, others just chalk it up to part of Southern life.
Kevin West and Justin Newton have been working outside Wednesday since 7 a.m. and, while they agreed that 97-degree weather is hot, it's not an excuse to stop a project.
"It's just summer," said Mr. Newton, who has worked construction for 30 years. "It's hot, no doubt, but I've seen worse than this and kept working."
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