Berkshires swelter for second day in a row; don't throw in the towel just yet

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If you were hot under the collar Saturday, rest assured, you weren't the only one sweating the meteorological details as high heat and humidity blanketed the Berkshires for a second consecutive day.

"Miserable," is how one North Adams Fire Department official described the weather.

Still, despite the discomfort, officials across the county didn't report any overt weather-related problems.

"Right now, we've had a fairly uneventful day," North Adams Fire Lt. John Paciorek said. "We haven't heard of anything really emergent happening so far. I think everyone is heeding the warnings and just taking it easy."

Serious heat swept the Northeast this weekend, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a two-day heat advisory through 8 p.m. Sunday for Berkshire County.

By 4:30 p.m. Saturday, North Adams had hit a high of 89 degrees. It was slightly hotter in Pittsfield, at 90.

"So, back-to-back days of 90," said weather service meteorologist Christina Speciale in Albany, N.Y. "If we hit 90 tomorrow, then we'll have a heat wave."

Speciale said that what was "really impressive" Saturday — many would say oppressive — was the humidity.

"Our dew points are in the mid-70s, which is typical for, like, Miami," Speciale said.

When dew points reach 65, it's considered muggy outside; at 70, it's very humid.

To see widespread dew points in the mid-70s is rare, she said.

"That is impressive," Speciale said. "That is a testament to the humidity out there, and why the heat index, what it feels like out there, is above 100."

Humidity bumped the "feels like" indices to the high 90s and lower 100s in Pittsfield and North Adams, said weather service Meteorologist Tom Wasula in Albany.

Knowing that the hot weather was on its way, officials opened cooling centers across the county. Adams and Pittsfield opened them at their senior centers. Pittsfield residents also were welcome to cool off at the Berkshire Athenaeum on Saturday, and Sunday at The Salvation Army.

In Great Barrington, the Berkshire South Regional Community Center off Stockbridge Road will be available as a cooling center through Sunday, during regular hours.

For the most part, it was summer business as usual Saturday, with people making some adjustments to ride out the heat.

In Pittsfield, the organizers of the Westside Community Day, an annual block party, moved vendor tents out of the street and into the shade, stocked up on water and set up a sprinkler for children.

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The fire departments in Pittsfield and North Adams were prepared to bring on extra crews and rehab units if they had to respond to an emergency.

"It's hot outside," said Pittsfield Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Noyes. "We've been on a bunch of calls, but we haven't seen a lot of heat-related calls."

The National Weather Service has recommended that residents of Berkshire County stay inside an air-conditioned room, drink plenty of water, and check on neighbors and relatives who might be having a difficult time handling the heat, Wasula said.

"If you lose air and are in a warm house, it can be very dangerous," he said.

In New York's Capital Region, which was issued an excessive heat warning — such a warning indicates prolonged periods of dangerous heat — indices spanned from 105 to 110 degrees, Wasula said. Even in Albany, where it was 93 degrees, it was not a record high, he said.

"Yesterday, it hit 90 in Pittsfield," he said. "That was the first time this year."

Noyes said he remembers one summer, during a heat wave, a fire broke out on Churchill Street.

"It was stifling heat," Noyes recalled. "So, it can be brutal."

If a fire did break out over the weekend, the fire departments in Pittsfield and North Adams would be prepared to keep their crews safe, officials said.

"I'd have to call in for extra help, call in other departments and assist us," Paciorek said. "We'd get a rehab center going to have everyone's vitals checked."

Most importantly, when responding to a fire during serious heat, departments would swap out crews more frequently to give the firefighters a break, he said.

Wasula said that the National Weather Service also hadn't had any reports of heat-related incidents in the county.

"There's some light at the end of the tunnel," Wasula said Saturday afternoon.

After the heat advisory expires Sunday night, a cold front will move into the region.

With rain and possible thunderstorms Sunday night into Monday, temperatures are expected to be in the upper 70s to low 80s, he said.

By Tuesday, it will be cool and dry, with temperatures in the low to mid-70s and "increasing sunshine," he said.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.


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