That time it was 104 degrees in Albany

sun 2015-07-27

The sun on Monday. (As it happens, it's the same sun as in 1911. Long lasting that star is.)

Because it's sure to come up this week as we approach of string of forecasted 90something-degree days: The highest daily temperature on record for the Albany area is 104 -- recorded on July 4, 1911. [NWS Albany]

That record temp was part of a massive heatwave.

Just the day before Albany hit its all-time recorded high, it reached 102 degrees on July 3 (itself a record at the time). Together they're Albany's two consecutive days with the highest max daily temperatures -- two of just 15 100-degree-or-higher days on record (since 1874).

The searing temps were part of a heatwave that stretched from the upper Midwest to New England. The beginning of July through July 5 of 1911 saw 100+ degree days in many cities, including Albany, as the heat wave rolled over the country, smothering cities across its width. From the Chicago Daily News Almanac and Year-Book for 1911:

"The present hot wave," said Chief Forecaster H Bowie of the government weather bureau in Washington on the evening of July 4 "is extensive and more intense than any other in our records It is safe to say it is unprecedented in extent, duration and degree of heat as far back as the records of the bureau go. It affects almost all of the Mississippi valley and the eastern section of the country. There has been no break in this heat wave since it first developed, and in countless localities in the area affected the highest temperatures registered in more than a generation have been recorded. The hot wave is caused by a high barometric pressure over the Atlantic ocean. That is a natural summer condition. There always is a high barometric pressure over the Atlantic at this time of the year, but this year it is abnormally high. Nothing like it in intensity has been known to meteorological science in the experience of the students of this generation.

Of course, all this was before air conditioning, and the heatwave was a disaster. More than 500 deaths were reported as being attributed to the heat -- 51 in Chicago alone on July 3. And here in Albany area, there were four heat-related deaths reported in Troy and two in Albany on July 4 (other reports indicate four people in total died in Albany during the heat wave). Accounts from multiple cities mention reports of deaths and "heat prostrations."

(Even in the age of air conditioning, heat waves still kill many people. The infamous 1995 Chicago heatwave is thought to have prompted more than 600 deaths, many of the people elderly and poor.)

The heatwave finally broke July 6 with rain and thunderstorms. Two people in the region were killed by lightning -- including a man working on his roof in Albany. And the storm prompted the shutdown of the power station that supplied the Albany trolley system, prompting people to find other ways home at the end of the work day.

By the way: That it's really hot right now is not unusual -- the last two weeks of July are typically the hottest week of the year for this year.

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