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From hot to hotter
Forecasters say heat wave in Valley should peak today

By Seth Burkett 340-2355

Wednesday's high of 100 made it the hottest day so far this year, but temperatures could climb slightly higher Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in Huntsville.

NWS Meteorologist Michelle Parcus said the temperature could reach 101, but it may feel several degrees hotter.

"We've issued a heat advisory because the heat indexes will be up (Thursday) and Friday," Parcus said.

The NWS issues heat advisories when heat indexes could reach 105 to 110 degrees or overnight temperatures could remain above 75 for two consecutive days.

Parcus said the next two days meet both criteria.

Another forecasting service, AccuWeather, forecast a high of 103 for Thursday and 97 for Friday.

Parcus said the peak temperature at Pryor Field on Wednesday was measured at 3 p.m. The peak heat index, she said, was 100.

"The dew point kind of dropped off in the afternoon, which was the only saving grace," Parcus said. "If it had been any higher, the heat index would have been higher."

Parcus said she expects the heat index Thursday and Friday to fall between 100 and 105.

"If relative humidity goes up, it could be over the 105 mark," she said.

Parcus said relative humidity has been "higher than usual, but not terribly high."

"The moisture plays it up pretty well," Parcus said. "Relative humidity is a big factor. The higher it is, the more unbearable it is. But hopefully the humidity should drop this weekend."

Parcus said the air should be drier following a frontal passage late Friday or early Saturday, and temperatures should drop into the mid-90s.

Heat-related illness

With the threat of heat-related illness high, 39 of the state's 67 counties remained under the heat advisory issued Wednesday.

The advisory was to end at 7 p.m. Thursday, but it was extended through Friday.

Power usage continued to spike as people tried to cool their homes and businesses.

"Usually, air conditioners are kind of off and on," said Decatur Utilities engineer Eric Baxley. "When everybody's running them at the same time, it puts extra load on the system.

DU's power usage reached about 267 megawatts Wednesday, surpassing elevated usage earlier in the week.

Baxley said power usage remained normal for the hottest time of year and was not likely to pass DU's 280-megawatt record set in 2001.

"I imagine the highest we'll get is in the low 270s," he said.

The Tennessee Valley Authority set a peak power demand record Tuesday for the second day in a row and was expected to set a new record Wednesday, TVA spokesman Gil Francis said.

TVA sold 32,888 megawatts of electricity by 5 p.m. Tuesday, breaking the all-time peak record of 32,095 megawatts set Monday.

Spokeswoman Amy Tate said TVA had not curtailed power supply for any of its customers as of Wednesday evening.

TVA continued to meet power demands by using nearly every available unit. The utility issued statements asking consumers to practice energy conservation by turning off lights and other appliances, especially during late afternoon and early evening hours.

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