The heat is on
Putting more than 600,000 revelers — many of them drinking — into 90-degree heat is a recipe for trouble.
That's what law enforcement and emergency responders could confront today, when the 35th annual EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta opens, country music superstars Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney perform at Heinz Field, and the Senior Players Championship continues at Fox Chapel Golf Club.
“We are an open-air event, so obviously heat will be a factor. ... In that regard, we have pretty much just about every emergency medical organization somewhere on the footprint,” said regatta organizer Michael Dongilli.
He said a misting tent at the entrance to Point State Park would spray people who get overheated and EMS personnel would help staffers recognize people who might be in distress.
As a record-breaking heat wave spreads eastward from the Midwest, officials hope people will heed warnings about the dangers of heat. At least 24 deaths have been attributed to the heat that has gripped the country's midsection.
The temperature reached a record high of 97 degrees shortly before 4 p.m. and stayed there for more than an hour, according to the National Weather Service station in Moon. The previous high was 96, set in 1934.
The record high for any day in June since the National Weather Service began keeping records in 1871 was 98, which was reached three times — June 4, 1895; June 22, 1988 and June 25, 1988.
The heat and humidity spawned some strong thunderstorms that rolled through the region last night, downing trees and power lines and causing minor street flooding in some locations.
Fans attending the Senior Players Championship can bring bottles of water today and Sunday and refill them for free along the course.
“I haven't been that warm in awhile,” said tournament leader Bill Glasson, an Oklahoma native.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Moon said temperatures will crack 90 degrees for the next several days before falling into the 80s.
“Once it gets over 85, it doesn't matter — it's hot,” said Gus Kalaris, 80, who runs a popcorn and frozen ice stand in the North Side.
The Allegheny County Health Department warned that heat can pose risks, especially for older people, infants and young children, people who are overweight or have respiratory problems, and those who work or exercise outdoors.
The weather service issued a “code orange” air quality alert for Liberty and Clairton.
County officials said seven senior centers would remain open for extended hours through Monday, and city officials said four cooling centers in Pittsburgh would be open through 7 p.m. Monday.
Demand for electricity increased as air conditioners roared, but utilities expected the supply to remain adequate, said Scott Surgeoner, spokesman for First Energy, which serves 6 million customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia and Maryland.
“The regional power pool is forecasting plenty of power,” he said. “With abundant supply and proper maintenance, we believe we'll be able to meet demand.”
Duquesne Light said service crews would carry additional transformers while performing routine work, in case they need to replace failed equipment. They were told to anticipate evening and overnight shifts.
Excessive heat has caused more deaths in recent years than all other weather events, including floods, according to the American Red Cross. Heat was blamed in four deaths during the past 10 years in Allegheny County, said David Zazac, a spokesman for the county Health Department.
“I think the people of Southwestern Pennsylvania listen to (warnings),” said Dan Stevens, a 911 spokesman in Westmoreland County. “When you say it's going to be hot, they listen.”
The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority reminded residents that opening fire hydrants is illegal and dangerous.
“They should not be used as a sprinkler,” said Tom Palmosina, the agency's acting executive director.
Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5644 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Craig Smith is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or email@example.com.