Now this is what a Southern summer should feel like.
Not like last year, deadly dry and scorching for weeks, then months. Not a season of crops and landscapes parched for moisture, of wildfires devouring forests and darkening the skies with smoke and ash.
No, this has been a softer summer altogether — hot, humid, but not unbearably so for most.
Temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s this week seem moderate compared to the 95 degrees recorded in Chattanooga on July 13, 2016 — only partway through one of the hottest June-August periods in 138 years. Where rainfall was 9 inches below normal this time last year, it's about 8 inches above now, a 17-inch differential.
The wet spring that continued into June and even July has left plenty of moisture in the ground, which is helping keep temperatures down, WRCB-Channel 3 Chief Meteorologist Paul Barys said. Chattanooga has measured 3.38 inches of rain so far this month, compared to normal rainfall of 1.74 inches for the entire month.
"If you're dry, you fry, and that's what happened last year," Barys said Wednesday.
How to help
Donate to the Salvation Army’s Beat the Heat campaign online at csarmy.org; by phone at 1-800-SalArmy, or send checks to 800 McCallie Ave. 37403, and write “Beat the Heat” on the check.
Through the weekend, highs will continue to be between 88 and 92 degrees, he said, with scattered showers. The chance of showers will be greater on Saturday, but next week looks to come in a bit drier.
Keeping cool amid the hot and muggy temperatures is pushing up the Tennessee Valley Authority's power demand.
Electrical users across the seven-state region consumed 28,033 megawatts of power as air conditioners in homes and offices worked to mitigate temperatures that reached an average high of 91 degrees Fahrenheit at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Most homes and offices in the TVA service territory use electric- powered heat pumps and furnaces, and a majority of all buildings are air conditioned.
Patrick Walshe, manager of resource operations and analysis for transmission operations and power supply, said TVA expected its peak power demand to top 28,000 megawatts Wednesday.
"We've been close to average temperatures through June of this year, but we still think it might average a degree or two above normal for the rest of the summer," said Walshe, a meteorologist who oversees TVA's power load planning. "Our summer peaks are usually in the last week of July and the first couple of weeks of August."
Walshe said the agency expects to have no trouble meeting the demand for power, even with its newest nuclear reactor at Watts Bar offline for repair of a ruptured condenser.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have air conditioning, though. For the poor and the homeless, the sodden heat can be a punishment.
So the Salvation Army this week kicked off its annual Beat the Heat campaign, spokeswoman Kimberly George said.
The Salvation Army sets up hydration stations and hands out bottled water to homeless folks around town, and the agency supplies new box fans to low-income families, especially the elderly or people suffering health problems.
"Moving the air around in your home or apartment provides a lot of relief," George said. She said Elder's Ace Hardware is partnering with the Army to supply box fans at cost.
The Army also opens up the big in-ground pool at the East Lake Community Center so kids can come to a safe place and cool off in the water, and it collects donations to help the poor, especially senior citizens, pay their utility bills.
"We couldn't do all that without the support of the community," George said.
Outdoor workers also have to keep going, whatever the weather.
Tim Holcomb, of Holcomb Garden Center on Hixson Pike, said he tries to make sure his workers get the hardest jobs done in the morning, before the heat really sets in, while remaining hydrated and taking rest breaks when they need them.
Sure, it's hot, Holcomb said, but "it's pleasant compared to last year when it was incredibly hot, and we've had a lot more rain."
Hydration and rest breaks are the key for Tim Reid, one of the city employees at Brown Acres Golf Course.
"We've been out in the heat all this week already, [aerating] the greens," Reid said.
"You learn to tolerate it, you don't get used to it — you don't ever get used to it," he said.
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6416.
Contact staff writer Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6430.