CINCINNATI - A heat wave rolling across Ohio sent temperatures and irritability soaring Thursday, promising a scorching start to the July Fourth holiday weekend and an end to the relief provided by cool nights the past few weeks.
Nicole Lewis said she could feel the effects of the increasing humidity as she waited for a bus in downtown Cincinnati, where the temperature in the early afternoon was in the mid-90s and rising.
"I'm already feeling fussy and cranky," Lewis said, while fanning with a brochure. Dressed in shorts and a sleeveless shirt, Lewis said she wished she was home in her apartment complex's pool instead of heading to an orientation for her janitorial job.
"When it starts to get like this, I try not to go out in the day if I can avoid it, but I didn't have a choice," said Lewis, who lives in nearby Batavia.
Low humidity the past few weeks and the drier ground allowed many areas to cool off at night "like deserts," said Seth Binau, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Wilmington office in southwest Ohio.
But on Thursday excessive-heat warnings and heat advisories were in effect throughout the state, with forecasts calling for temperatures of 100 degrees or higher in some areas. By late afternoon, temperatures in the Cincinnati region and in Dayton had reached 103 and 102, respectively. The thermometer had reached 100 degrees in Columbus and 101 in Toledo by later in the day, according to the National Weather Service. Cooling centers were designated in many parts of the state to help those Ohioans needing to escape the heat.
State health officials urged people not to spend too much time outdoors and to stay hydrated to avoid heat-related illness over the next several days. In Cleveland, Mayor Frank Jackson asked residents to check on neighbors as temperatures were expected to be the 90s by Saturday.
Darlene Backus, 58, of Cincinnati, was equipped with a bottle of water and a cap as she waited in the shade at another bus stop in downtown Cincinnati.
Backus, who was job hunting, said she has avoided turning on her air conditioner because of the expense.
"I need to keep electric bills down, so I will try to stick it out as long as I can," she said, adding that she had a lot of shade around her home.
Landscapers and mowing crews got an early start on Thursday to beat the afternoon heat.
Tom Curdes, owner of Barron's Lawn Service in suburban Toledo, said his employees pushed to get more yards done earlier in the week. He also sent out an extra mowing crew on Thursday so his workers would be done early.
"We're just trying to be as safe as possible," he said.
The high temperatures combined with increased winds and still relatively low humidity levels in other parts of Ohio led the weather service to issue warnings of a high fire danger from noon into Thursday night, especially in the northwest area.
Dry and windy conditions could lead fires to spread quickly if any develop, said Martin Thompson, a meteorologist with the weather service's Cleveland office.
"We don't recommend outside burning," he said.
Soaring temperatures and increasing humidity were predicted to create a "double-edged sword" over the next five days in much of southwest Ohio, making the air more oppressive, but hopefully reducing the fire risk," Binau said.
"Fires don't like humidity," he said.
Associated Press writers John Seewer in Toledo and Thomas J. Sheeran in Cleveland contributed to this report.
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A confirmed tornado touched down near Denver International Airport Tuesday afternoon, sending travelers on the concourse, on planes and in the terminal scrambling to get into tornado shelters.
The National Weather Service says at least six tornadoes touched down in Ohio during violent midweek storms.