Delawareans suffer through sweltering temperatures

By Rachel Sawicki
Posted 6/30/21

This summer is already the hottest on record across the globe. It may also be the coldest summer for many years to come.

A three-month forecast published in mid-June from the National Oceanic …

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Delawareans suffer through sweltering temperatures

Posted

This summer is already the hottest on record across the globe. It may also be the coldest summer for many years to come.

A three-month forecast published in mid-June from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration shows a 60-70% chance of above-normal temperatures throughout the Northeast, including the entire state of Delaware.

This past week, Delaware felt that heat. Today marks the last day of a heatwave that prompted excessive heat warnings for parts of New Jersey, northern Delaware, and southeast Pennsylvania, with heat advisories stretching into upstate New York and southern Maine, according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures today are expected to hit 95 degrees in Newark and Dover and 97 in Wilmington. In Sussex County, temperatures could range from 96 degrees in Seaford to 95 in Georgetown and 88 in Rehoboth. They are then supposed to go back down in the 70s and 80s later in the week.

Patrick O’Hara, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey said temperatures in urban areas are typically hotter than rural, shaded areas, which makes residents in cities more susceptible to heat-related illness, such as respiratory issues, heart attacks, and in extreme cases, death.

“Temperatures in the urban areas tend to stay warmer, especially after the sun goes down, the air starts to cool down pretty fast but you can feel the heat coming from buildings that absorb heat during the day,” Mr. O’Hara said.

“So at night when the temperature doesn’t get down much below 80 [degrees], this prolongs the heat stress and increases danger when we don’t get that break at night.”

A 2018 report from the Delaware Nature Society claims that there could be 50 to 65 days over 95 degrees every year by the end of the century. And as a densely populated area with a lot of paved surfaces, Wilmington will likely be significantly hotter than the rest of Delaware.

Mr. O’Hara stressed the importance of drinking plenty of water and taking rests during extended periods of extreme heat. But not everyone in the areas that are most at-risk have the resources or opportunities to keep themselves safe.

Code Purple Delaware operates in all three counties to help vulnerable populations suffering from homelessness, abuse, drug addition and more.

Ennio Emmanuel, the head of Code Purple in Kent County, said many homeless people are fleeing urbanized areas in New Castle County suffering from heat-island effect and coming to areas with more protections and more job opportunities at the beaches.

“There are places where there’s trees but sometimes they are shunned away by business owners,” Mr. Emmanuel said.

“So due to that, they have to go to places where sometimes there isn’t shade available, and that causes a problem as well when they’re exposed to the sun for long hours.”

On Thursday, Code Purple will be offering hotel vouchers on a first-come-first-serve and need basis.

“People who have a disability or a mental illness, or they have children and they’re suffering, and they’re outside right now, if they can bring proof of that or a referral from another government agency or nonprofit, we’ll be able to expedite the process and get some people in hotels on the same day or the next day,” Mr. Emmanuel said.

Referrals are helpful in the process but not required; vouchers are given based on condition. The conditions of vouchers vary, but typically will be good for a two-week stay. Mr. Emmanuel said they’ll be able to help around 50 people with this assistance.

Low-income residents can also find aid with the Delaware Energy Assistance Program, which provides energy bill assistance to eligible households. Their Summer Cooling Assistance Program helps by paying a portion of summer electric bills.

Sussex County listed the County Administration building in Georgetown, the South Coastal Library in Bethany Beach and the Milton Library as “cooling stations” through the end of the week.

As temperatures climb, energy use typically climbs too. Delmarva Power is preparing for extreme summer weather this year as well to prevent power outages as much as possible.

Customers are encouraged to install energy-efficient LED bulbs, which use up to 75 percent less energy than standard bulbs, and unplug electrical devices that are not in use. Health conditions permitting, setting thermostats a few degrees warmer in the summer and a few degrees colder in the winter saves energy as well.

Similarly, Delaware Electric Cooperative issued its Beat the Peak alert through Wednesday to encourage customers to conserve energy through high-demand hours of 4 to 6 p.m.