Heat wave hitting southern U.S. hard

Heat wave hitting southern U.S. hard
June 22, 2009
By Rick Jervis
USA Today

NEW ORLEANS — A dry, scorching June for much of the South will likely remain this week with high temperatures expected to be as much as 10-15 degrees above average and some areas near or at record highs.

As the first day of summer arrived Sunday, cities across the South and parts of the Midwest were monitoring near-record highs. Tallahassee recorded 103 degrees on Saturday, just one degree shy of that day's record high for Florida's capital, said Mark Ressler, a meteorologist with The Weather Channel.

Record highs are possible for several southern cities this week, including Jacksonville, Orlando, Memphis, Little Rock, Corpus Christi and New Orleans, said Mark Avery, meteorologist at The Weather Channel.

In New Orleans, visits to the Audubon Zoo were down and the visitors who did show up were encouraged to cool down at misting stations and wading pools, said Sarah Burnette, a zoo spokeswoman.

Monkeys were refreshed with frozen sport drinks and leopards received frozen rabbits. Lions and tigers got blood popsicles.
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"It's what we expect in the summer at the zoo," Burnette said. "We've been to this rodeo before."

St. Louis is under an "excessive heat warning" through midweek, with temperatures in the upper 90s, or over 105 with the humidity calculated in, Ressler said. "Extensive heat warnings" were in effect for Mobile, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla., he said.

The high-level ridge causing the heat is unique in that it parked itself directly over the southern U.S., not allowing sea moisture or winds to blow in, Ressler said. The ridge has kept out thunderstorms, which typically lower temperatures, and pushed down warm air, creating the hot, dry conditions, he said. The ridge is expected to stay there through at least next week.

"It's still a very hot-air pressure system," Ressler said.

The National Weather Service warned of "exceptional" and "extreme" drought conditions in swaths of southeast Texas. Southern Louisiana was deemed "abnormally dry," though not in a drought situation.

Residents of New Orleans, accustomed to hot weather, were nonetheless experiencing a drier than normal June. The city usually receives nearly 4.5 inches of rain by this time in June, said Christopher Bannan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Slidell, La. So far this month, the city's seen .92 inch.

"It's hot and dry and doesn't look like it's going to change for about a week," Bannan said.
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