UPDATE | Sultry air baking our region

A vast area of hot and sultry air covering all but a handful of states across the northwest quadrant of America is baking the USA heading into the weekend, including here in our region.

HUNTINGTON/CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 7/19/19 @ 10:55 p.m.
A vast area of hot and sultry air covering all but a handful of states across the northwest quadrant of America is baking the USA heading into the weekend.

Afternoon highs ranged above 100 across the Plains to the “mere” 90s in our region. While the official highs came in at 94 Charleston and 91 Huntington on Friday afternoon as measured at local airports, the famous urban heat island effect (where concrete buildings and asphalt roads suck in the heat of the July sun more effectively) mustered highs at 95 from Cabell EMS downtown Huntington and in Kanawha City.

Overnight lows this week are routinely staying in the 70s with no reason to expect any change in that until we get some rain.

The alert for excessive heat rolls into Saturday and will likely be extended into Sunday as the incandescent July sun teams with a tropical air mass (in the wake Hurricane Barry) to muster a heat index (combination of heat and humidity) near 100.

Cooling thundershowers are possible by Sunday late day and at night with Monday holding the trump card for a few summer downpours to break the heat.

Early odds favor a good inch of rain on Monday in much of the region followed by a noticeable drop in humidity and temperature. By Tuesday and Wednesday, highs near 80 and lows near 60 with sunshine will feature a welcome taste of September for the start of the Cabell County and Jackson County fairs in West Virginia.

UPDATE 7/18/19 @ 10 p.m.
Late Thursday evening the temperatures have been tallied and we chalked up another 90-degree day in Charleston while the official reading at Huntington Tri-State Airport kept the thermal in the upper 80s. Just don’t tell that to construction workers and landscapers who battled the mid-90s heat index.

While scattered showers tried to cool things down in far southern Ohio, eastern Kentucky and West Virginia counties along the Big Sandy, most parched gardens and the two county fair venues missed out on any appreciable rain. For the zone from Ironton-Ashland to Louisa-Fort Gay to Prestonsburg-Pikeville, the drive along the Country Music Highway will be foggy overnight after the rain.

Meanwhile all systems are go for the hottest weather of summer to arrive Friday and hang on through the weekend. Daily highs in the mid-90s will team with oppressively high humidity levels to generate a REAL FEEL HEAT INDEX of 100-105 on bare skin.

For that reason, the National Weather Service has issued a rare EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING Friday through Sunday as a way to get the word out; namely, a major heat wave will impact our region this weekend.

Practical common sense ways to beat the heat include: staying hydrated, slowing down or putting off any strenuous outdoor exercise or work, wearing loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and wearing sunscreen.

Given the legacy of heat waves in recent decades (1995 America, 2003 Continental Europe experiencing punishing heat and massive mortality), my suggestion is simply to check in on the elderly and infirmed until we get to the cooling thunderstorms of Monday.

The early summer heat wave ebbed on Wednesday (hard to say it ended given highs sweltered into the upper 80s) as clouds and quick moving cooling showers some with thunder crossed the region. The shadowy form of Hurricane Barry passed far to our north in relative anonymity.

Rainfall totals came in not so impressively, with many areas measuring less than a quarter of an inch (recall John Marra’s adage of an inch per week makes a good growing season). Given the next good chance of rain will hold off until Sunday night-Monday (always a chance of a renegade storm in the heat,) we will need to be watering our gardens in the intense heat and dryness that is ahead.

As far as the heat goes I am reminded on an old silly song that pays tribute to the English King Henry VIII and there is a verse that goes like this.

“….Second verse same as the first, a little bit louder and a little bit worse…”.

Translating this adage to our upcoming weather, we should expect this next surge of heat to be even stronger than the one which just ended. This third “official” heat wave of the summer will likely last four or five days with peak temperatures at least in the mid-90s with heat indices (combination of temperature, humidity and wind on bare skin) above 100 degrees.

While a 100-degree reading on calibrated thermometers at the two airports seems far-fetched, a credible case can be made that the air temperature (95-ish) will make the air feel above 100 degrees through this weekend.

Cooling thundershowers should arrive Sunday night or Monday with temperatures falling back to cozier early September levels by Tuesday.