As the United States celebrates its 243rd birthday, millions east of the Rockies face higher than normal temperatures while those in the West stay cooler, according to the National Weather Service.
Daytime highs in the 90s will be common across many Eastern states, where humidity creates a “muggy” heat that feels even hotter than the thermometer reading. Overall, more than a third of the nation will reach 90 degrees on Independence Day.
Meanwhile, temperatures in New England, even as far north as Maine, as well as the Great Lakes region should approach — but not reach — the 90-degree mark on July 4, the weather service predicts.
Triple-digit highs may happen in Texas and the Deep South, with record temperatures possible across Central Florida. In the Southeast, the heat index could surpass 110 degrees when humidity is factored into thermometer readings, climatologists say.
Thursday’s celebrations may be marred by severe thunderstorms across parts of the Central Rockies and the Plains (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico). Residents of Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota and the Upper Midwest are likely to experience local heavy rainfall, if only for a brief spell in some areas.
Regional precipitation is due to a cold front pushing south, according to the weather service, which forecasts dry weather on the Fourth in New England and most Western states.
In Atlanta nearly 60,000 people gathered Thursday morning to celebrate the national holiday by running the annual AJC Peachtree Road Race, which is marking its 50th birthday this year.
Organized by the Atlanta Track Club, the race began at 6:25 a.m. for the earliest cohort of wheelchair racers with staggered start times for other participants through 8:40 am. Temperatures were in the mid-70s when racers lined up at Lenox Square on Thursday morning, so by the time most reached the middle of the scenic city course, the heat index was in the low 90s.
Though last year’s starting temperatures were similar, Race Director Rich Kenah advised racers at a pre-run news conference on Tuesday to drink plenty of fluids, watch their pace and generally be careful while on the course.
“We are prepared for anything that comes at us, but we want everyone to think about preparing,” he said.
In addition to those running or training for races on Independence Day, anyone who is planning to spend time outdoors should be on the lookout for the effects of extreme heat.
Warning signs of impending heat illness include not only a high body temperature, but also hot, red, dry, or damp skin and a fast, strong pulse, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additional symptoms include headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and passing out or losing consciousness.
To prevent the effects of heat, you should wear loose-fitting clothes while in the sun, drink plenty of water, take it easy during the hottest part of the day and never remain in an enclosed space like a car.
While those most vulnerable to heat illness are the very young and the very old as well as those in poor health, anyone can experience heat illness.
If you feel the effects of heat, the trick is to cool down as rapidly as possible by drinking plenty of water and also returning your body temperature to normal as quickly as possible — a cold shower or bath should do the trick.