published Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Hot, hot, hot: Heat index to hit triple digits today in Chattanooga

Paul Champlin, 5, sprays himself in the face with a garden hose as he plays in an inflatable pool Monday in the backyard of his home in Fort Oglethorpe. The family still had the pool out after a birthday party the previous day for Paul, who just turned 5 years old.
Paul Champlin, 5, sprays himself in the face with a garden hose as he plays in an inflatable pool Monday in the backyard of his home in Fort Oglethorpe. The family still had the pool out after a birthday party the previous day for Paul, who just turned 5 years old.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

RECORD TEMPERATURES

June 11: 98 degrees (1914)

June 12: 100 degrees (1902)

Today's forecast high: 95 degrees

Today's forecast low: 72 degrees

Forecast: Mostly sunny with a 20 percent chance of rain and 59 percent humidity

Source: Paul Barys, WRCB-TV Channel 3

VIDEO

This story is featured in today's TimesFreePress newscast.

In the shadows pulled from trees, under a tent, next to a pair of fans, Terrie Robertson prepared for another evening at the Riverbend Festival. In her pocket, she carried a dark blue rag, ready to be dipped in cool water and plopped on her head.

Robertson, a staff worker at Fun Time Foods, hoped to push the usual items Tuesday. Fried pickles. Fried mushrooms. Fried onions.

But, at least compared to the first four nights of the Riverbend Festival, Robertson expected more people to ask for tea, lemonade and soda pop.

"I'm hoping it will help sales," she said of the day's temperatures, which hit the low 90s on Tuesday.

Those in Chattanooga looking for a reprieve from the heat won't get one today. Temperatures are expected to rise higher than they did Tuesday, perhaps higher than they will all summer.

"I'm saying 95 [degrees]. It will be the hottest day of the year if it gets there," said Paul Barys, chief meteorologist for WRCB-TV Channel 3.

And it will feel even hotter than that. Meteorologists expect the heat index to hit triple digits, driven by humidity from all the rain that pelted Chattanooga last weekend.

In fact, all the precipitation -- last weekend and before that -- has been part of a cooler-than-usual season. Last month, the average temperature was 67.6 degrees, about 1 degree cooler than a typical May.

So far this year, the city has received 12.8 inches of rain, and Barys said that is above average.

And, looking beyond this week, the trend should continue. At its hottest, Barys said, this summer will be an average one. But it might also be cooler than normal.

The reason? Low pressure in the upper atmosphere, he said. This low pressure creates low pressure at the surface, and air lifts, and clouds form, and rain pours, and temperatures dip.

Last year, by comparison, the air pressure in the upper atmosphere was high. This meant fewer clouds and less rain. This also meant a hot, hot summer.

Overall, last year was the hottest year on record for Chattanooga, according to the National Weather Service. The average temperature here in 2012 was 63.6 degrees.

On Thursday the temperature should hit about 92 degrees. But a cold front will be coming through, said David Hotz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Morristown office. This cold front will create thunderstorms in the region.

On Friday, the temperature should hit about 86 degrees. Then, on Saturday and Sunday, the temperature will rise to the low 90s.

"The whole pattern seesaws," Barys said. "It goes back and forth, back and forth."

Readers should prepare for the high temperatures this week, said Amy Maxwell, spokeswoman for Hamilton County Emergency Services. Wear light clothing. Wear sunscreen. Drink a lot of water before you leave home, and then drink more water.

And when you're outside, if you fear you're overheating, find some shade. Take off any unnecessary clothes, like undershirts. And apply a cold pack to your neck or groin, which will cool off your legs.

And if you're at Riverbend, and you can spare the money, buy a tea. Or a lemonade. Or a soda pop.

Contact Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.

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