'Heat dome' temps set record in part of Michigan, send people looking for cool spaces
As temperatures rose to the mid-90s Wednesday afternoon, Metro Detroiters were just looking for ways to stay cool amid the "heat dome"
With the humidity above 40% in the region for much of the day, the temperatures felt more like 100 degrees or higher.
Saginaw set a temperature record for June 15 at 94 degrees, said Megan Varcie, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Pontiac office. Flint tied its record temperature, set in 1988, of 93 degrees. Detroit reached 94 degrees, just short of its daily record mark of 95 degrees, also set in 1988.
Lansing and Muskegon also set records, with temperatures at 95 (previous record: 92 in 1967) and 92 (previous: 90 in 1954), respectively.
Across the country, millions of people were enveloped in stifling heat as "excessive heat warnings" from the National Weather Service covered portions not only many of the Great Lakes states but also California, Arizona and Georgia.
In Michigan, hospitals reported minimal cases of heat-related illnesses, but Maryanne MacLeod, a spokeswoman with Beaumont Health, said they could see more cases overnight Wednesday or Thursday.
In Detroit, seniors sat under a tent on the asphalt parking lot outside the Adams Butzel Recreational Complex doing spirited arm exercises. Not even temperatures so hot they could feel it through their shoes could stop them from Senior Fun Day.
"My first thought today was to stay at home," said Edna Jackson, a 74-year-old living in Detroit. "But me living by myself, that's not a good thing. So I got out to meet the people, and it's not as bad as I thought it was going to be."
Jackson wore a large hat and a battery-operated fan around her neck. She also had a battery-powered hand fan. Dressed in light clothes, she was waiting for organizers to announce the last raffle winner of the day before dashing back to her car.
The event was an important chance for older people to socialize, said Laura Riddick and Crystal White, caregiver support coordinators for the Detroit Area Agency on Aging. Attendees were given lunch and plenty of water, and an ambulance was nearby in case of emergencies, although there were none.
The COVID pandemic has cut back on the number of events like Wednesdays, White said, so seeing people turn out despite the heat was a victory.
"They're here, and they're enjoying themselves," Riddick said. "It's good to see."
For Jackson, attending was a good chance to see other people. She said she might make a run to the grocery store but was otherwise limiting her trips outside.
"I'll be in the house for the rest of the day with the air, looking out the window to see how hot it is," Jackson said.
Many pedestrians in Detroit could be seen toting water bottles, while around the city, recreation centers opened as cooling centers to offer people the chance to get out of the heat.
Varcie said that Wednesday's weather, while more typical for July or August, was a fluke caused by high pressure, lots of sunshine and few clouds creating a "heat dome" rather than a heat wave that will last for the rest of the week. Temperatures are expected to drop Thursday and through the weekend, returning to more June-like weather.
A cold front was expected to come through late Wednesday and into Thursday, likely bringing some showers. Severe storms were unlikely, she said.
She advised people to still keep an eye on the weather as it cooled off slightly because high heat indices — temperature with humidity factored in — can still be difficult for those working or spending time outside.
"If you have higher heat indexes, it could make it harder for your body to cool down, versus if the temperature were 94 with barely any humidity," Varcie said.
The National Weather Services predicted a high of 91 degrees on Thursday with a 30% chance of rain in Detroit. Friday is expected to reach 83 degrees, while daily high temperatures are expected to be in the mid-70s over the weekend.