Thunderstorms may wipe out heat wave

But it's still not as hot as the summer of '88

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Pittsburgh's heat wave may dissipate this weekend, leaving behind some bad sunburn.

Thunderstorms expected late Saturday through Sunday will "cool things down to 80 degrees," National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Coblentz said. The storms will push out the high pressure system built up in the past 10 days, which has kept the warm air close to the ground, he said.

Since June 28, the weather has remained in the high 80s and low 90s, with some days spiking into the high 90s. High humidity has only added fuel to the fire.

About 200 of the people gathered at President Barack Obama's rally Friday at Carnegie Mellon University consulted medics because of the heat. About 60 of them stayed briefly in the school's Purnell Center for observation and 13 were transported to local hospitals for treatment, said Anita Barkin, director of University Health Services at the school.

In July of 1988, Pittsburgh faced its worst heat wave to date. There were 13 days of above-90-degree weather, hitting above 100 degrees twice.

That year was "the crown jewel of heat," Mr. Coblentz said. "We're still quite a bit away from that."

But residents still feel the burn.

Compared to last summer, attendance at public pools and the city's four cooling centers has nearly doubled as a result of the heat wave, said Joanna Doven, press secretary for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

She also cited an increase in heat-related 911 calls.

Michael Turturro, chief of emergency services at UPMC Mercy, is "worried about the next 24 hours" until the expected break in the heat.

UPMC Mercy hasn't encountered any severe cases of heat exhaustion -- and doctors are crossing their fingers that the number won't change.

The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory suggesting that those with medical conditions and the elderly should stay indoors; others should keep in the shade, stay hydrated and limit outdoor activity.

It also issued an air quality alert for the region.

"The heat takes a toll on healthy people too," Mr. Coblentz said.

Locals seem to be heeding this advice and having some fun in the process.

At Sandcastle Water Park in Homestead, business is -- not surprisingly -- booming. The park's Lazy River and Mon-Tsunami wave pool attractions have increased in popularity since the start of the heat wave, because of their large capacity and ability to cool people off quickly, said the park's public relations manager Jeff Filicko.

"The heat wave has unquestionably increased attendance," he said. "Hot weather is very good for water parks."


Emily Dobler: or 412-263-3873.


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