Hello, and welcome to Heat Wave 2019, so glad you could make it. (You did not have a choice.) Please, step inside nature’s hellish maw and pick a nice damp place to curl up, because we’re going to be here for a while — the next few days, at least. A heat dome has encased broad swathes of the United States like a giant hooded hair dryer, relentlessly blasting us, its prisoners, with scalding air. If you live in the Midwest, Northeast, or South, walking outside probably feels like stepping into a sauna in the winter: a shocking wall of feverish heat that crowds your body and catches in your throat, siphoning sweat from your pores and leaving you drenched in a sticky dew.
Just how hot are we talking? By Tuesday, the Washington Post predicts that “86 percent of the Lower 48 states will have experienced high temperatures of at least 90 degrees, and close to 50 percent will have seen temperatures reach or exceed 95 degrees.” In Chicago, Friday’s current low is 81 degrees, while the heat index — what the temperature actually feels like to you, due to high relative humidity rendering your body powerless to cool itself down — is expected to peak at a freakish 117 degrees. Highs in Kansas and Iowa could crack 100 degrees. On Saturday, the heat index in St. Louis could climb to 109 degrees, and 111 here in New York City. Nationwide, temperature records will likely shatter. According to CNN, roughly 195 million people woke up to a heat warning, watch, or advisory Friday morning.
It’s so hot that streets in Illinois and Kansas are cracking open, the asphalt pried apart as if by Satan’s fiery fingers. Meanwhile, trains in the Chicago area are running at slower speeds due to the risk of track buckling.
It’s so hot that New York City has canceled its triathlon (originally scheduled for Sunday), and its Central Park OZY festival, featuring your queen, Megan Rapinoe. Local public pools will stay open until 8 p.m., and playgrounds will run their sprinklers until dark, so you can do this:
Or this (you wish):
It’s so hot that, in Nebraska, National Weather Service employees baked biscuits on the scorching dashboard of a car in their parking lot.
It’s so hot that Cleveland’s National Weather Service Twitter account has cooked up another stunning meme, ominously (and correctly) warning you that “paws will get burned” if you don’t put your pet in booties before taking it out for a walk. It’s so hot that your fan will do next to nothing for your fur friend, and you’re going to need to either find them air-conditioning, or make them a nice dark hovel to hide in until all of this is over.
It’s so hot that zoo animals are cooling off with frozen blood-sicles. It’s so hot that many people — especially the elderly, and those with preexisting health conditions, and those who work outside — could face fatal complications, especially because temps will remain precariously high even at night.
It’s so hot that we can expect collateral damage, even in places where going outside won’t turn you into an egg frying in a pan. Those on the outskirts of the furnace could be caught in “ring of fire” weather events, lusty storms that result when steam heat clashes with cooler air from the north, kicking up thunder, high winds, and maybe even tornadoes. This weekend, the sky brawls could extend down a disconcertingly long corridor, from roughly Montana to New England.
It’s so hot that the air has congealed into a weird soup, heavy and thick and cloying and closing in around your body as if to drown you. It’s so hot and no one is safe. It’s way too hot, and it’s only getting hotter.