PROMISED LAND, Pennsylvania: It’s not exactly flowing with milk and honey — just ask the area’s struggling black bears — but Promised Land on Sunday (July 24) offered respite for city dwellers in the Northeast trying to escape a nearly week-long heatwave that just threatened to intensify.
Those who had the means fled to pools, beaches, and higher elevations like Promised Land State Park at 1,800 feet in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains and about a 2.5-hour drive from New York City and Philadelphia.
From the Pacific Northwest to the southern Great Plains and the densely populated Interstate 95 corridor, more than 85 million Americans have been under excessive heat warnings, or heat advisories, issued by the National Weather Service. The agency warned of “extremely depressing” conditions from Washington to Boston.
Even in the Promised Land, temperatures were forecast to top 32 degrees Celsius, but with the shade of the forests, cool lake water and mountain breezes, it was more than tolerable, visitors said.
Rosa Chavez, 47, a Manhattan high school teacher, put on sunscreen on a beach on Promised Land Lake. She and friend Arlene Rodriguez, who was accompanying her, had experienced Europe’s own heatwave while on holiday in Florence, Italy, last week.
“The heat follows us,” said Rodriguez, 47, a real estate agent and property manager.
In the northeast, numerous record highs are to be reached or broken, the weather service said.
Philadelphia was expected to hit 100 degrees on Sunday before humidity was even factored in. Newark, New Jersey experienced its fifth straight day of 100 degrees or more, the longest such streak since records began in 1931. Boston also hit 100 degrees, beating the previous daily record high of 98 degrees set in 1933.
At least one heat-related death has been reported in New York. Sporting events have been shortened or postponed around the region.
Philadelphia officials extended a heat emergency through Sunday, sending workers to check on the homeless and knock on the doors of other vulnerable residents. The city also opened refrigeration centers and stationed air-conditioned buses at four intersections to help people cool off.
Forecasters urged people to wear light clothing, drink plenty of water, limit time outdoors and check on the elderly and pets.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu declared a heat emergency through Monday and kept a dozen cold centers open.
Organizers of the New York City Triathlon shortened the distances athletes ran and biked. This weekend’s Boston Triathlon has been moved to August 20-21.
On the west coast, forecasters warned of extreme heat set to hit earlier this week and linger through the weekend. Temperatures could shatter all-day records in Seattle, Portland and northern California by Tuesday and be the highest since a heatwave last year that killed hundreds of people in the Pacific Northwest.
Many homes in the often rainy region lack air conditioning, and authorities warned that indoor heat is likely to build up over the week, increasing the risk of heat-related illnesses, emergency medics in Boston also warned.
Chavez, from Promised Land, said she has asthma and needs to have her inhaler with her, especially “when the heat is so intense I can’t breathe.” The breeze and clearer air in the mountains are helping, she said.
It was already over 80 degrees in the morning when Mhamed Moussa Boudjelthia, a 31-year-old Uber driver from Queens, fired up a grill on the beach to make kebabs. He and another friend from Queens had fled the city’s hot chaos for the day.
“It’s really hot there,” said Boudjelthia. “There’s also too much moisture.”
His friend Kamel Mahiout, 35, agreed as he stood in a cool breeze: “It’s crazy in New York City.”
At lower elevations, the heat subsided even in less than an hour. In Scranton, Pennsylvania, Sunday’s high should be 97 and should not drop below 70 at night.
“It also creates danger. People don’t get that relief overnight,” said Weather Service forecaster Lily Chapman. “This stress on the body is cumulative over time.”
The area was also drier than usual, she said.
Regular campers and cabin dwellers in the Promised Land attribute an unusually high number of bear sightings to the dry conditions. The animals roam neighborhoods and campgrounds in search of litter while streams and berries run dry.
“It’s hot today,” said Alex Paez, 34, of Scranton, sitting under a shaded canopy on Promised Land’s beach. “If you don’t need to be outside to do something productive, then stay home.”
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