The relatively mild summer weather is one reason I live in Michigan. Sure, there are hot days, but, for the most part, Michigan summers are pleasant. However, since Saturday, it has been nearly impossible to tell Michigan from the Deep South. Not since the summer heat wave of 2006, during which I was eight months pregnant, has the heat been this intolerable in Michigan.
The problem in Michigan is not as simple as looking at the numbers on the thermometer. It is the combination of heat and humidity that combine to create the weather picture here. WZZM TV 13 is reporting today’s high to be 90 degrees. Not bad, some may say. But, now add in our 83 percent humidity, courtesy of Lake Michigan, and today will be downright unbearable. Perhaps adding to the discomfort during the 2010 summer heat wave is the fact that last summer was unseasonably cool. I must admit that, while many people complained about the cooler temperatures last summer, I was in heaven. I am not a big fan of summer heat.
Lake Michigan is a fantastic tool for cooling down warm summer air. The lake effect works by cooling summer air as it moves over the Lake. The benefit to those of us living in Michigan is a bit of a break from the sweltering temperatures experienced by cities like Chicago and Milwaukee. But Lake Michigan can also raise the summer humidity to unbearable levels. As warm summer air passes over the lake, it picks up additional moisture from the water. The more moisture there is in the air, the higher the humidity. The higher the humidity, the hotter it feels.
Need a fan or air conditioner in Michigan? You won’t be buying one this week. Local stores are selling out of both items faster than ever, and putting customers on waiting lists. My mother’s air conditioner stopped working on Saturday, and finding a replacement during the 2010 summer heat wave has proven a difficult task. She lives in an apartment building, and the temperatures in her unit can be sweltering, even in the winter. Her solution: stay at my air-conditioned home.
My family and I, like the bulk of Michigan residents, are riding out the 2010 summer heat wave by staying indoors, enjoying our air conditioning. I only venture out in the early morning, as even the evenings have proven to be unbearable. Restaurants and malls have been absolutely packed. When I tried to bring my toddlers to the play area at the local mall, we were turned away by a security guard who said the mall was limiting the number of kids in the play area. It seems that so many parents were bringing their kids to the play area that it quickly got crowded to levels that made it unsafe.
Those without air conditioning are seeking out the cooling waters of pools, lakes and rivers. Since Sunday, beachgoers fed up with the oppressive heat and humidity have braved the choppy waters of Grand Haven State Park to find some relief. Many did not seem to care about the red flag warnings and strong rip tides. Several swimmers had to be rescued on Sunday from nearly drowning at the park.
The 2010 summer heat wave has proven a challenge for my two toddlers as well. When it’s too hot to be outside, that means we stay inside. It has taken a great deal of creativity on my part to keep them from climbing the walls. Tensions can quickly escalate with cooped-up kids, so I have been dusting off many activities, from picnics in the living room,to microwave s’mores, play dough, blanket forts, movies and play dates. We have also taken trips to the air-conditioned library, grocery store and ice cream shop.
The unrelenting heat and humidity have been already been responsible for one Michigan death. According to WNEM TV, a homeless woman in suburban Detroit was found dead in a parking lot on Sunday. According to the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office, the woman died of hyperthermia. Hyperthermia results from an abnormally high body temperature.
Thursday promises some relief from the 2010 summer heat wave for Michigan residents, as temperatures are expected to only be in the high 80s and humidity is expected to be significantly lower.