According to Billy Wilder, Some Like It Hot. Hardly anyone, however, likes it this toasty, and there’s only more in store.
National Weather Service data reveals the Cape Fear region hasn’t seen a high less than 90 degrees since June. July’s coolest day thus far was on the 10th, when it only got up to 90 degrees. The hottest day of the summer so far occurred on July 7, which peaked at a sweltering 99 degrees.
The worst is yet to come, however.
“Every summer, it just seems like it’s hotter than last summer,” said Don Franklin, a part-time resident with a home near White Lake.
This year, at least, Franklin is right. Although July is always a hot month for Eastern North Carolina, this year’s temperatures are coquetting climate data. For climatologists, a daily average temperature is the mean of the day’s high temperature and low temperature, so a July day with a high of 90 and a low of 70 would have an average of 80 degrees. In fact, 81 degrees is the normal average for the area for this week, but this year’s unrelenting heat has pushed July’s average to 85.1 degrees, a full 4 degrees higher than normal.
While it is hot, it’s certainly been hotter. The record temperatures for this time of year range from 102 to 106 degrees.
The difference, however, is that there’s usually a break — a night when temperatures dip into the low 70s or even the 60s — which, at this point, might cause even the earth to heave a sigh a relief. June was the last time the Cape Fear region saw temperatures in the 60s.
The heat is hitting North Carolinians where it hurts — the wallet. According to a 2016 study by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy, the 25 million households in the bottom income tier spend 22 percent of their after-tax income on utilities and fuel, compared to the 5 percent the top tier spends for the same services. Wallet Hub recently ranked the Tar Heel State 11th in the country when it comes to monthly electricity costs — $11.43 per kilowatt hour.
Franklin, for one, is feeling the pinch.
“No matter which home I’m in — we have a house in Leland and one here at the lake — I grit my teeth every time I pay the power bill,” he said. “When I’m not there, I keep the house at about 90 degrees — we have one of those thermostats where you can turn the air and heat up or down on your phone — so it’s only keeping the house at 90 degrees and running the refrigerator and freezer, and I’m still paying about $20 a day, even when I’m not even there. This heat isn’t good for anything.”
Franklin and other air-conditioning-loving homeowners will have to wait for some relief. On Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook through Sunday for much of North Carolina, including Bladen County. Forecasters are predicting highs of 97, 100, 100, and 99 for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively, with heat indices flirting with 110 degrees.
Currently, a high pressure ridge responsible for record temperatures in the Midwest has set its sights on the East. Because the Bermuda High — a semi-permanent, subtropical area of high pressure usually centered above Bermuda during the summer — will be settling further east than normal, the East Coast of the U.S. will be left vulnerable to the high pressure ridge creeping in from the Midwest.
The result will be heat, and lots of it.
Temperatures began crawling into the upper 90s on Wednesday and are expected to peak at 97 degrees this weekend. Plenty of moisture will mean dew points will return to the lower 70s, and the rising temperatures will push the heat index back into triple digits — possibly as high as 110 degrees.
Over the weekend, overnight lows are not expected to get below 80, and daily highs are expected to nudge 100 every day through at least through Monday.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.