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Little Relief Seen from Hot, Humid Air in Dixie

July 9, 1986

Undated (AP) _ The Southeast sweated for a fourth day Wednesday under a blob of hot, humid air that has killed chickens, heightened demand for air conditioning and fans and worsened a water shortage in the drought-stricken region.

Temperatures again rose above 100 degrees in parts of Georgia and the Carolinas. The National Weather Service said the combination of heat and humidity pushed its heat index, a measure of how warm the air feels, to between 105 and 115 degrees across much of the Southeast and as far west as southern Missouri.

Record highs included 102 degrees at Augusta, Ga.; 101 at Charleston, S.C.; 104 at Columbia, S.C.; 103 at Macon and Savannah, Ga.; 100 at Norfolk, Va.; and 93 at Asheville, N.C. Goldsboro, N.C. reported a high of 105. Norfolk’s record of 99 had stood since 1885.

″We have a few businessmen at lunchtime with their shoes off and pants rolled up in the riverwalk,″ a blocks-long scale model of the Mississippi River at a Memphis, Tenn., park, said park spokesman Gary Ravetto.

The high pressure system pinning the muggy air over the Southeast ″will remain the dominant weather feature through the week,″ said the weather service office in Atlanta.

″The temperatures are going to remain above normal, and it’s going to stay very dry through this weekend,″ said forecaster Jim Curtis in Greer, S.C., which hit a record 101 degrees Tuesday, the same day Augusta, Ga., hit 103.

Cooler air pressed down from the North, but its collision with the persistent hot air was marked by thunderstorms paralleling the Mason-Dixon line.

South of that line, Richmond, Va., broiled at 96 at midday, while Washington, 100 miles to the north, was at 75 degrees.

On Tuesday, Washington’s Dulles International Airport had reached 99 degrees, and the wheels of a United Airlines plane sank 1 1/2 feet into new asphalt.

South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia utilities reported record demand for electricity Tuesday, a day after similar reports in Maryland, Delaware, Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey and New York.

The Salvation Army in Owensboro, Ky., was lending out fans, said Capt. John Bledsoe. ″The elderly, of course, have top priority.″

The dry summer has prompted many Georgia cities and counties, particularly around Atlanta, to restrict or prohibit outdoor water use, with fines up to $50. Canon, in northeast Georgia, will join the list Thursday, banning lawn watering and car washing.

Lake Allatoona in northwest Georgia, which provides 10 percent of the region’s drinking water, is down 15 feet from normal. About half of its 28 public boat ramps are closed because they no longer reach the water.

The drought has also reduced hydroelectric production at Tennessee Valley Authority dams, including Barkley and Kentucky dams. In June, electricity generation for all TVA dams was only 56 percent of normal.

Rainfall in Birmingham, Ala., is 20 inches below normal for the year and more than 15 inches below normal in parts of Tennessee, forcing officials to caution against misuse of water.

In North Carolina, the Orange Water and Sewer Authority asked the cities of Carrboro and Chapel Hill to impose water use restrictions because its reservoir was 4 feet below normal, said executive director Everett Billingsly.

The heat is affecting Georgia’s $1.25 billion poultry industry, with thousands of chickens dying this week. Jesse Atkins of Mar-Jac Farms in Hall County said he had 10,000 deaths Monday alone.

Abit Massey, executive director of the Georgia Poultry Federation, said the problem is compounded by the drought, because well water is used to cool chicken houses. ″There are just so many variables right now, we can’t tell how bad it’s going to get,″ he said.

Kentucky’s Department of Agriculture said the weather has left its mark on some crops, particularly tobacco.

″Some of the old-timers are saying it’s some of the worst tobacco they’ve seen in a long time,″ said George Martin, McCracken County extension agent.

Earlier in the week, the heated air had extended into the Northeast, and New York City had reached record highs of 98 two days in a row.

In Philadelphia, four days of 90-plus-degree temperatures ripened tons of garbage left on sidewalks during a municipal workers’ strike.

″I can’t do anything about the odor because I don’t have anything for the odor,″ said Norris Newton, a sanitation department employee. ″But I know it’s going to get rough out here. That odor, especially with this heat, is going to make it rough.″

William Christopher Flynn III, who feeds the seals and whales at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, preferred an icy plunge to a cool drink Tuesday. ″I dive in the (50-degree) water with the whales three times a day,″ he said.

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