The temperature in Pittsburgh breaks 90 degrees about eight times a year. At least three of those sweltering days could await us this week, starting today.
Monday saw 90-degree heat, and forecasters said even hotter days are in store -- 94 today and Wednesday and 93 on Thursday -- complete with unpleasant humidity and little chance of rain.
"It's just going to be hot," said Rich Sardula, who manned his ice cream truck near Market Square as people pranced in a nearby fountain and raced toward him when he once tried to relocate. The ice cream sandwiches, fudge bars, snow cones and Popsicles on Mr. Sardula's "dollar menu," fly from his coolers on these oven-like days. "Most of my customers, I give them a free cold water bottle when they buy something, 'cause that's just how hot it is."
A string of hot days was expected this week, with temperatures soaring past 100 degrees in some places. In the East, warm air is "sitting over the top of us, and it's not really going to budge much for the next day or two," said Brian Korty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Camp Springs, Md. A system coming in off the Atlantic Ocean will bring in cooler temperatures after that, he said.
Temperatures in the Pittsburgh area will fall only slightly, into the high 80s, by Friday.
"We're right there now where we would expect to see the higher temperatures," said Larry Struble with the National Weather Service in Moon.
Not uncommon weather, but certainly uncomfortable. Allegheny County's Department of Human Services will extend hours at some of its senior centers starting today, and workers had assembled "hot weather boxes" full of fluids and a fan to give to 800 "high-risk seniors," spokeswoman Kathleen Burk said. Many other seniors who are not on that list need help, too, she said and urged neighbors to look after them as temperatures rise.
The heat and poor air quality prompted the state's Department of Environmental Protection to issue an "air quality action day" for southeastern Allegheny County until early Wednesday.
"The continual hot temperatures and another full day of sunshine is likely to keep ozone levels in the Code Orange threshold," the National Weather Service wrote in its advisory.
A Code Orange rating by the DEP means that young people, the elderly and people with respiratory problems should limit their outdoor activities.
On Monday, some people sought refuge at air-conditioned malls and movie theaters, while others braved the heat. Others had no choice.
The Sanchez family drove 45 minutes from Houston to spend the day at Sandcastle in West Homestead but were greeted by long lines and guards who told them they'd have to leave; the water park was at capacity.
"She was pretty disappointed," Dave Sanchez said of his 5-year-old daughter, Zoe, who squinted into the sunlight outside AMC Lowes Waterfront, where the trio opted to see "Toy Story 3" instead. Mr. Sanchez, his wife, Wendy, and Zoe, with a silent nod, agreed it was a cooler alternative.
"It wasn't a lost day at all," Mrs. Sanchez said.
Near a sun-soaked Market Square, Laci Saunders, 24, and Lizz Stark, 28, splashed in a water fountain, where dozens of squealing children also found relief.
"We carry our bathing suits everywhere," Ms. Saunders said. "It was cheap and fun, so why not?"
Sadie Gurman: email@example.com or 412-263-1878. The Associated Press contributed. First Published July 6, 2010 4:00 AM