NJ bracing for extreme heat, high humidity

July 7, 2012 10:03:14 PM PDT
After working at a beach bar in southern New Jersey for several years, Ernie Feilke is used to dealing with scorching temperatures and high humidity while going about his tasks.

But as temperatures across New Jersey broke the 100-degree mark early Saturday afternoon, even Feilke was feeling the heat.

"It's pretty gross out there today," the 39-year-old Abington, Pa., resident said while taking a brief respite from the heat at Springfield's Carousel Bar, an outdoor establishment near the beach in Sea Isle City. "When we got out there this morning around 10 a.m., (the heat) already was smacking you in the face, and there's no ocean breeze coming in. It's super hot out there, so we definitely will be sweating through a few shirts as we work today."

The heat and humidity created heat indexes from 105 to 115 degrees across the state Saturday, the worst so far of a lengthy heat that has baked New Jersey. Cities and urban areas were under excessive heat warnings, while heat advisories were in place elsewhere. And to add to the misery, severe thunderstorms were moving through some areas during the late afternoon and early evening hours.

To help combat the heat, residents were urged to stay indoors in air-conditioned areas if possible, while cooling centers were set up at schools and other community sites. Many people headed out to malls or movie theaters in a bid to stay cool, while others were jumping in to swimming pools or hitting the beaches to cool off in the ocean waters.

By 5:30 p.m., all of New Jersey was seeing temperatures in high 90s, and a couple areas were still at 100 degrees or slightly higher. But no record temperatures had been set, forecasters said.

As the heat grew more intense, beaches along the Jersey Shore were slowly filling up. And in Sea Isle City, Feilke and his co-workers were ready for the expected crowds.

Working under an awning that covers about half of the bar's deck, staffers are mostly protected from the sun. There also are fans and misters there to help keep them and their customers cool.

The workers also keep lots of water and sports drinks on hand to stay hydrated, and rotating shifts means everyone gets the chance to be inside the bar's air-conditioned building.

"I'm here for about 10 hours today, and if they need someone to go into the deep freeze to get beer or something, I'll be glad to do it," Feilke joked.

Also working outdoors on Saturday was Freddie Jackson, a 48-year-old Toms River man who sells roses by the dozen from his four-door car, which was parked in a heavily shaded area off a major highway in neighboring Jackson Township. Clad in shorts, sandals and a white T-shirt, Jackson said he would stay out as long as he felt safe - and business was good.

"I had lots of sales this morning, but once it got to be about 11 a.m. or noon, you could see there wasn't as much traffic," Jackson said, "I do this mainly to make a few extra bucks, so I'm not going to stay if I started feeling (the heat). I'm very aware of heat exhaustion and related problems."

Jackson said his teenage daughter had stopped by to bring him a cooler with several bottles of water inside, and he had a couple ham and cheese sandwiches with him.

"I'm tempted to leave them out in the sun for a while and see if I end up with grilled cheese," he joked.