Temperatures across the region smashed records by reaching at least 102 degrees Friday – but today is expected to be even hotter and may break a record for the hottest day ever recorded in this area.
Forecasters said there is no relief in sight through at least Monday – prompting a call for extreme caution from emergency officials concerned that outside activity could lead to a health crisis.
The National Weather Service showed an official temperature of 102 just before 4 p.m. at the Rock Hill/York County Airport, but other reports had temperatures as high as 106. The old record for the date for Rock Hill was 101.
Chester reported 103 degrees, York hit 102 degrees, and Lancaster was at 104 degrees, said James Oh, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The highest temperature ever recorded on any day for the Charlotte area is 104 degrees, Oh said.
But today could be the hottest day ever in this area – the forecast is for 104 degrees, said Patrick Moore, another Weather Service meteorologist.
“It could be the hottest day of them all,” Moore said of Saturday.
Yet Friday saw records smashed all over the Midlands and Upstate of South Carolina – Columbia reached 109 degrees, Moore said.
Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill saw a few heat-related cases Friday, but none were severe or life-threatening, said Amanda Cotter, clinical supervisor and emergency room nurse.
However, the potential for heat-related illness remains at the highest levels, Cotter said.
“Absolutely, there is a community health concern with this heat,” Cotter said. “The potential for heat-related illness is something that must be taken very seriously.”
Although heat illnesses do not have to be reported to the state for statistical tabulation, the record heat presents a “potentially dangerous” public health situation, said Jim Beasley, a state Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman.
The National Weather Service forecast high for Sunday is 102. Monday’s high is expected to reach 101.
All three utility providers in York County have discontinued all disconnections at least through Monday because of the extreme heat.
York Electric Cooperative, which has a lower temperature threshold than Rock Hill and Duke Energy, suspended disconnections Thursday. York Electric expects a potential record usage for Friday because of the large amount of industrial plants that use huge amounts of electricity.
“Right now, we have suspended all disconnections, and with the forecast to remain above 95 degrees for at least several days, we would continue that policy,” said Marc Howie, a York Electric spokesman.
Duke has suspended disconnections in South Carolina and North Carolina and will review the forecast Monday morning, said spokeswoman Shirley Moore.
Rock Hill utilities also would keep disconnections suspended at least through Monday if the forecast holds, said city spokeswoman Katie Quinn.
Keeping cool, healthy
Volunteers ran three Rock Hill cooling and water shelters during the hottest daytime hours Friday – with two of those shelters at the ROC Community Center, 119 E. White St., and the Sterling Lodge, 1644 Ogden Road, remaining open through the weekend.
“We want to offer a place for those people to find a cool place and get water, because this is a serious public health concern for people who might be outside during these hours with no alternative,” said Jerry Seale of the Sterling Lodge.
County 911 operators have not had many heat-related calls, said Cotton Howell, York County Emergency Management director, but responders are staying vigilant through what is expected to be one of the hottest – if not the hottest – weekends ever.
“So far, we have seen people staying indoors, staying out of this heat, and that is the key,” Howell said. “People seem to be coping the best they can.”
Staff at Piedmont Medical Center have talked with state health officials about opening a special needs unit specifically for heat illnesses if the number of patients spikes dramatically, said Don Hardister, director of security and emergency management at the hospital.
“Heat indexes above 106 and more, that is very dangerous,” Hardister said.
Special needs populations – the elderly, the young, those with respiratory illnesses – are at greater risk of heat illnesses.
The best rule is common sense: Stay out of the sun and heat if at all possible, York County Coroner Sabrina Gast said.
York County has not had a heat-related death this year, but the record-breaking temperatures create a risk for anyone who might have medical problems and other frailties, said Gast, who was a registered nurse before she was elected coroner.
Anyone with heat illness symptoms such as dizziness or cramping should seek immediate medical attention, she said.
People are also asked to check on anyone they know to be susceptible to heat problems, such as elderly neighbors and family, said Capt. Mark Bollinger of the Rock Hill Police Department.
“This weekend’s heat is very serious,” Bollinger said. “If someone can check on a person they know, great. If they have concerns that ... someone needs a wellness check, we can do that.”
Anyone who thinks a heat-related incident requires emergency help should call 911, Bollinger said.
To help those in need during the record-breaking heat, York Electric Cooperative has donated $400 to police to use to buy and distribute fans. The York County Sheriff’s Office for the fourth consecutive year is running “Operation Cool Breeze.”
Deputies will be distributing fans to those in severe need during patrols, Sheriff Bruce Bryant said.
‘Mucho calor’ outside
Outdoor work should be avoided if possible through at least Monday, especially during the hottest afternoon hours, said Cotter, the clinical director at PMC.
Some people still had to work outdoors Friday, no matter that records were broken.
Outside Sunset Park Elementary School in Rock Hill, crews paved on one side of the school and poured concrete sidewalks on another side.
“We drink plenty of water and Gatorade, but we got wet concrete out here, and it has to get done,” said Keith Deaton, who supervises a crew of 10 men.
The workers took frequent shade and water breaks but still spent hours under the record-breaking sun.
“This is the work; we have to make money on days like this,” said concrete finisher Terry “Bo” Goodman.
Many of the workers said that the only way to get paid Friday was to work.
“This is the job – no matter how hot,” said Giovanni Holanda.
“Mucho caliente,” said one guy named Maximo Salina.
“Mucho calor,” said another named Jorge DeLarosa.
Any way you say it: record-breaking hot.
Andrew Dys 803-329-4065