Heat Wave, Drought Showing No Signs of Slowing Down

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -
Los Angeles County firefighters pause to fight the flames due to erratic winds in Placenta Caynon Road in Santa Clarita, Calif., Sunday, July 24, 2016. Flames raced down a steep hillside "like a freight train," leaving smoldering remains of homes and warnings that more communities should be ready to flee the wildfire churning through tinder-dry canyons in Southern California, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt Hartman)
Los Angeles County firefighters pause to fight the flames due to erratic winds in Placenta Caynon Road in Santa Clarita, Calif., Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt Hartman)

The heat wave gripping parts of the country is not going away anytime soon and will hit a peak Monday with temperatures in the 100-degree range and even higher in some cities.

Excessive heat warnings will continue Monday in most of the Midwest and regions out west. It’s due to a dome of high pressure, meteorologists say, that’s affecting most of the United States and contributing to drought conditions in the Northeast and continuing to fuel wildfires in California.

“It’s fair to say that the vast majority of the nation has been experiencing above-normal temperatures for the past week,” said David Robinson, New Jersey state climatologist at Rutgers University.

The dome of high pressure traps hot air and is the basis for the “critical high temperatures” the country has been experiencing the past week, Robinson said, even for being the warmest time of the year.

Thunderstorms are common, as they were in parts of New England over the weekend, but don’t help much with drought conditions in the Northeast and out west. Particularly dry weather in areas like Massachusetts and New York have forced farmers to choose which crops they will water and which will just not survive the season.

“The Northeast is a little bit of a mixed bag, but the bottom line is that the conditions have deteriorated over the past several weeks to a couple of months,” said Rich Tinker, a drought specialist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In southern California, where drought has persisted for years, 18 homes have been destroyed and more than 34 square miles of brush have been blackened in a blaze that sparked Friday. Los Angeles Fire Chief John Tripp said the fire “started consuming houses” … ”like a freight train.”

A main difference between the drought in the Northeast and out west is that the Northeast can pull out of those conditions at any time, Robinson said.

“The good news is that there’s always a chance that the pattern can switch in several weeks at any time of the year,” he added.

Temperatures in the Philadelphia area are predicted to reach their highest points Monday as 50,000 Democrats are expected there for their national convention (DNC). The heat index could hit 108 degrees, said Mitchell Gaines, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey. Temperatures may reach into triple digits. Adding to that, the humidity is set to return.

Thousands of protesters, many for climate change, on Sunday braved mid-90s temperatures as the city provided free water and “misting tents” to demonstrators, some of whom are walking several miles.

When will the heat wave break? Not anytime soon, Robinson said. Higher than normal temperatures are still expected in the six- to 10-day outlook. Two weeks out, the temperatures are still slated to be high. The good news is there’s a chance, Robinson added, of normal to above-normal precipitation.