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City sizzles in heat wave

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Local temperatures have been above 90 degrees five days this year.

Four of those days have been in the past week, and yet another was being predicted for today.

The temperatures have been like a stepladder of misery.

Monday's high in Charleston hit 91, followed by a Tuesday high of 92, a Wednesday high of 93 and then a Thursday high of 94.

"We've continually gotten one degree warmer from July 15th through today," said Tim Axford, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.

The trend should break today, when a high of around 90 is forecast.

Sweet relief?

"I guess you could call it that," Axford said.

See also: Extreme temps are dangerous for dogs

The long stretch of sizzle prompted the National Weather Service to issue a heat advisory for much of the region.

"The combination of hot temperatures and high humidity will combine to create a situation in which heat illnesses are possible," the weather service statement warned.

The warning continued, "Take extra precautions if you work or spend time outside."

The heat wave is part of a scorcher stretching across the central and eastern United States.

About 130 million people are sweltering through the heat wave in the Midwest and Northeast this week, AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski told USA Today.

Heat advisories and warnings are in place from the Dakotas to New England.

In Charleston, the heat prompted county officials to hand out water in Slack Plaza near the Kanawha Valley Regional Transit Mall around lunchtime Thursday.

KRT also parked one of its buses at the transit mall to function as a cooling center.

Janet Briscoe, director of epidemiology and emergency preparedness at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said county agencies conduct similar events several times each year, in part to raise awareness about staying safe in the heat.

Briscoe said officials will continue monitoring the weather and will make arrangements for water distribution and cooling centers as conditions warrant.

"If the heat continues day in and day out, responders will look at opening other cooling stations," she said.

Briscoe said to use caution when doing any activity outside and people who need to be in the heat should drink plenty of fluids, avoiding anything sugary or containing alcohol. She advised residents without air conditioning to go to a place that is cooled, like a shopping mall or community center.

Participating agencies in Thursday's water handout included the health department, Metro 911, KRT and the Kanawha County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Staff of the Arc of Three Rivers behavioral health organization were also handing out water downtown independently of the county agencies during their lunch break.

Jennifer McCafferty, an employee with the Arc of Three Rivers, said Thursday was the first time the organization handed out water on a hot day.

"Everybody needs a helping hand," she said.

Despite the recent heat, this summer as a whole has been fairly mild in West Virginia.

Joe Merchant, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, said that including Thursday, there have been only five days in 2013 when the temperature has been above 90 degrees.

Besides the four 90-degree days this week, May 31 was the other 90-degree culprit.

In fact, there were no days in June when the official temperature was 90 or above, though temperatures were 88 or 89 for seven days.

Though today and Saturday have forecast high temperatures in the low 90s and high 80s, the heat should subside by Saturday evening.

Merchant said beginning Saturday afternoon, a stationary front will bring rain to the area, which will cause temperatures to drop. Severe weather is expected only in the northern third of the state. High temperatures will be only in the low- to mid-80s through Tuesday.

His colleague Axford commented, "The actual relief comes Sunday when we do have a cold front Saturday night. We do cool down, at least by summer standards, to the low- to mid-80s."

The National Weather Service expects the Charleston area to receive between 2 and 2.5 inches of rain from Saturday to Tuesday. So far, Charleston is 1.48 inches above its average amount of rain for July.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at or 304-348-4817.


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