'Heat dome' effects trap Metro Detroiters in danger zone

Dangerously hot temperatures are predicted as a "heat dome" stretches over two-thirds the nation. Here’s the forecast, with tips on staying safe.

Mark Hicks Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Landon Immekus, 5, and Weston Immekus, 7, of Troy, keep cool under a misting tent Thursday during a Red Wings street hockey event in the steamy parking lot of Meijer in Royal Oak.

Scorching heat with a side of storms.

That's how meteorologists are describing what's happening in the region as Michigan sits on the northern edge of an intense "heat dome," a high-pressure zone that traps heat. The conditions are the result of the dome hovering over the eastern two-thirds of the nation.

More than 100 local heat records are expected to fall Saturday across the country, according to the National Weather Service. Most won’t be record-daily highs but record-high nighttime lows, when blistering temperatures during the day typically fall enough at night for a little relief.

The heat wave, says Greg Carbin, forecast branch chief for the weather service’s Weather Prediction Center, will likely be “short and searing.”

Metro Detroit meteorologists do not expect to break record highs this weekend but say the records for daily minimum temperatures could be tied or broken.

The lack of cooling overnight can be dangerous, meteorologists say, and it's not just in southeast Michigan. In parts of the Midwest and East, temperatures won’t drop below the mid- to upper-70s or even 80 degrees at night, officials said.

Some area residents aren't sweating the heat, though.

“It took a bit for summer to get here so I don’t know how you can complain,” said Clarence Turner, who works at a restaurant in Detroit's Greektown. “It literally wasn’t until the end of June. I like hot weather and prefer this heat over winter.”

The heat index, which is what the temperature feels like, should hit 109 in Metro Detroit on Friday, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of Weather Underground.

The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning for parts of southern Michigan, including Detroit, Pontiac, Coldwater and Monroe, through 8 p.m. Saturday. The alert is triggered when hot temperatures and high humidity combine to create a situation in which heat-related illnesses are possible, officials said.

"Heatstroke and exhaustion become a serious concern under these conditions," the weather service said.

Those moving around outside are urged to:

  • Wear light-colored clothes
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Stay out of the sun
  • Avoid unnecessary work or activities outside or in a building without air conditioning

Due to elevated ozone levels, the weather service has issued an air quality alert for Friday for St. Clair, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Wayne, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

People and workers outside are urged to avoid activities that can lead to ozone formation. Those include refueling vehicles, working gasoline-powered lawn equipment and using charcoal lighter fluid, officials said.

"It is recommended that active children and adults, and people with respiratory diseases such as asthma, limit prolonged outdoor exertion," the weather service said.

Breathing high concentrations of ozone can cause health problems, said the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. 

"We all need to help keep the air clean," Kathleen Lomako, the group's executive director. "Since the mid-1990s, air quality in southeast Michigan has improved. That is due, in part, to the actions that residents take on Ozone Action days, giving credence to one of SEMCOG's key messages — that individual actions taken by many can make a difference."

Maintenance on high-alert 

Ryan Stowe, DTE Energy vice president of distribution operations, said officials have prepared for a weather event like this, but warn residents to expect outages.

"We have our meteorologist on staff helping us forecast that weather and get ourselves as prepared as we can," he said Thursday. "We do that in a few ways, a number of long-term investment plans into the electrical system with smart-grid infrastructure and system upgrades help the system handle the extra electrical load. We’re preparing crews and having them on standby.

"It's all hands on deck," he said.

Stowe said their system is designed to handle the demand, but customers should try to stay comfortable while conserving energy by keeping blinds closed, cooking outdoors, and running ceiling and other fans.

Stowe said they are preparing for thunderstorms along with the extreme heat.

"We’re going to see some outages, no doubt," he said. "It’s really not the heat … it’s the extra usage and demand on the system. ...Overall we think we’re in really good shape. We have all of the power plants running but know that there could be a weak spot here or there. If something should happen, we are ready to respond."

The weather also is affecting roads.

"This heat wave has made the asphalt pavement on (westbound) I-94 service drive near Merriman heave," said Karl Wagner, senior operations technician at the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Taylor Transportation Service Center. MDOT crews were slated to work with Wayne County on Friday to resolve the issue, he added.

Periodic thunderstorms through Sunday

Because Michigan is on the northern edge of the heat dome, the Lower Peninsula is susceptible to thunderstorms with "torrential rainfall" moving through, which will affect the high temperatures, meteorologists say.

There is a strong cold front expected Saturday evening with periodic thunderstorms through Sunday evening, said Steven Freitag, a meteorologist with the weather service in White Lake Township. 

"Hot energy fuels thunderstorms and brings torrential rainfall," he said.

And they carry the potential for power outages, say energy companies. If storms knock out power, stay at least 25 feet away from any downed power lines. Customers can visit the online outage map, report an outage and sign up to receive power restoration updates at Consumers Online Outage Center and DTE Energy's Outage Map.

The best way to report an outage is to report it using the DTE Energy app or call (800) 477-4747. 

Cooler temperatures arrive next week

The good news is that the heat wave is temporary and will abate early next week.

Sunday: Sunny with a high of 85 and a low of 62 and thunderstorm overnight 

Monday: Sunny with a high of 78 and low of 59

Tuesday: Mostly sunny with a high of 80 and low of 60

Wednesday: Sunny with a high of 82 and low of 64

Safety tips

The heat has led AAA Michigan to offer safety tips. It urges drivers to check their battery, engine coolant and fluids, tires and air conditioning to help their cars survive the temperatures.

It also asks motorists to make sure children aren't left in their vehicles, which can heat up within minutes and lead to heatstroke. In 2018, 52 children across the country died from heatstroke in hot cars, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“People often think that something like this could never happen to them,” Adrienne Woodland, a spokeswoman for AAA – the Auto Club Group, said in a statement Wednesday. “However, many heatstroke deaths are accidents, where a parent or caregiver forgets the child is in the back seat.”

The Humane Society of the United States also urges pet owners to protect their companions by:

  • Adjusting intensity and limiting the duration of exercise if they must go out
  • Keeping dogs' temperatures below 104 degrees
  • Providing ample shade and water
  • Using a cooling body wrap, vest or mat
  • Removing dogs — any pet — from vehicles, even for a short span; a vehicle's temperature can rise more than 20 degrees in 10 minutes, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Authorities urge observers to call 911 if they see children or pets left in vehicles on hot days. 

Being exposed to the heat outside can harm animals, experts say.

The Michigan Humane Society's cruelty team has responded to calls daily this week about dogs left in inadequate conditions for the weather, and its Detroit clinic treated two canines that died from heat-related illness, media manager Anna Chrisman said.

At the Pontiac-based Michigan Animal Rescue League, "we've definitely seen more strays with heat exhaustion than normal," said Kathleen Craig, its dog care coordinator. "Signs can include excessive panting or wobbliness, and canines at greatest risk can include breeds with thicker, heavier coats, she added.

"If you see any signs like that ... you want to try to get them in the shade," in air-conditioning or even to a kid-sized pool, Craig said. "It’s important to be vigilant."

Cooling centers

To help residents beat the heat, some Metro Detroit communities have opened cooling centers.

Taylor has stations at the Taylor Recreation Center, 22805 Goddard, from 6 a.m.- 9 p.m. through Friday; the Taylor Sportsplex, 13333 Telegraph, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. through Friday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 2-10 p.m. Sunday; and the William Ford Senior Activities Center, 6750 Troy, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday.

The lobby area at the Lathrup Village City Hall, 27400 Southfield, is open as a cooling center   through 4:30 p.m. Friday.

Warren has three cooling centers open 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Friday and Saturday: the Fitzgerald Center, 4355 E. Nine Mile; the Owen Jax Center, 8207 E. Nine Mile; and the Warren Community Center, 5460 Arden.

Dearborn's Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave., is open as a cooling center until 9:30 p.m. Friday, and 8 a.m.- 8 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.

Westland has cooling centers at its police station lobby, 36701 Ford Road, and Fire Station 1, 35710 Central City Parkway, both open 24 hours; Fire Station 3, 28801 Annapolis, 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. through Saturday; City Hall, 36300 Warren Road, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. through Friday; Jefferson Barns Community Vitality Center - 32150 Dorsey, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. through Friday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday; William P. Faust Public Library, 6123 Central City Parkway, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; Westland Friendship Center, 1119 N. Newburgh,  9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m.-noon Saturday.

Many cooling centers are open in Macomb County, including the Clinton-Macomb Main Library, 40900 Romeo Plank Road, Clinton Township, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and the Eastpointe Memorial Library, 15875 Oak, noon-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. A full list is available on the county website.

Detroit has multiple cooling centers, including the Northwest Activities Center, 18100 Meyers, until 10 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m.- 0 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; and Butzel Family Center, 7737 Kercheval, until 8 p.m. Friday. Other sites are listed on the city's website.

With residents set to use their air conditioning even more, the Michigan Public Service Commission is offering tips to help manage utility bills:

  • Use ceiling fans
  • Install and set a programmable thermostat
  • Set thermostats as high as comfortably possible
  • Keep curtains or blinds closed to keep the sun from warming the home’s interior
  • Shut air vents in parts of the house that aren’t used or closing off unoccupied rooms
  • Use dishwashers later in the day to avoid adding heat or humidity to your home
  • Seal cracks around windows and doors to keep cool air from escaping
  • Unplug cellphones, TVs, video games and other devices when not in use

Visit www.weather.gov/safety/heat for more tips.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_

The Associated Press contributed.