'Excessive heat warning' from Weather Service
Boston’s Logan airport reached 96 degrees yesterday afternoon—the third day this week that temperatures have soared in the city above 90 degrees.
The high temperatures led the National Weather Service (NWS) to issue an excessive heat warning for yesterday. According to Mike Jackson, a meteorologist for the NWS office in Taunton, this week’s hot weather is more than the typical August heat in New England.
“I’d call this slightly unusual,” Jackson said. “In some cases we’re breaking records that are 40 years old.”
Despite the rarity of such temperatures, the University has faced little difficulties withstanding the heat.
Harvard’s facilities have handled the heat extremely well according to Thomas E. Vautin, Harvard’s vice president for facilities and environment services.
The University’s central cooling plant, located in the basement of the Science Center, has faced no problems despite the heavy demands for chilled water from those buildings that are equipped with air conditioning.
“We weren’t near any limits of capacity,” Vautin said.
However, as many Harvard buildings, including virtually all of Harvard’s housing, are without air conditioning, such news provided little comfort to staff and faculty.
As a result, many students decided to abandon their dorm rooms and instead try to take advantage of what air conditioning was available.
“Air conditioning has now become my top priority in deciding what I’m going to do with my day,” said Sarah E. Hallenbeck, a student in Harvard Summer School’s Secondary School Program.
However, some summer school students took the hot weather in stride.
“I think [the hot weather] is a small price to pay for the privilege of studying here,” said April J. Anderson, a student a student in Harvard Summer School’s Secondary School Program.
Concerns about this week’s heat also extended well beyond Harvard’s campus. The heat wave caused Cambridge City Manager Robert W. Healy on Tuesday to put the city’s “heat protocol” into effect through this afternoon.
Under the emergency plan, the city opened two of its senior centers as “cool shelters” for the elderly and babies—two populations particularly susceptible to heat-related injuries.
Upon request, the city will even provide transportation from an individual’s house to the shelter.
“This is a basic procedure we’ve had in place for about 10 years,” said David B. O’Connor, emergency management coordinator for Cambridge. However, he said that the centers have never previously been forced to operate for so many consecutive days.
Yesterday brought some additional problems, though. The city’s cool shelter in Central Square lost power during yesterday’s 90-minute power outage, causing the building’s air conditioners to stop functioning.
The city was prepared to evacuate the center and transport individuals to alternate locations that still had electricity, but city officials decided against such a drastic move after learning that power would be restored relatively quickly, according to O’Connor.
While the city’s emergency efforts seem to be effective in keeping the city’s seniors safe during the heat—as the city had seen no significant increase in the number of medical emergencies in its senior population—O’Connor said the city has seen a “spike” in the medical emergencies in its homeless alcoholic population.
He noted that alcohol magnifies the effect of the heat on the body.
Temperatures are expected to go well into the 90s today as well.
“We’re still in for a scorcher,” Jackson said.
Relief is finally expected tonight as a cold front moves through the area, though the front may bring severe weather to the region. This weekend and next week temperatures are expected to be below normal.
—Katherine E. McCormack contributed to the reporting of this article.
—Staff writer Daniel P. Mosteller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.