Runners, joggers and bicyclists hit the boardwalk early Thursday morning.
The air temperature was already 80 degrees by 9 a.m. — not an uncommon occurrence, but a humid haze lingered over the shoreline, obscuring the Steel Pier’s Observation Wheel and forecasting the rising temperatures to come.
“What heat?” joked Gail Phalen, 68, of Brigantine.
The self-proclaimed sun worshiper, along with her husband, Tim, and friends Chuck and Barbara Cooper, sat on the benches near the end of the Ventnor Boardwalk.
“We’re enjoying the heat,” said Phalen. The couples planned to bike the Boardwalk before getting breakfast and heading to the beach.
“We started at 8:15 a.m.,” said Barbara Cooper, “but by 2 p.m., I’ll be done. You can only take so much.”
Thursday marks the midway point in a six-day heatwave along the Mid-Atlantic. Thursday was relatively cooler, with high temperatures reaching only into the 90s.
Press of Atlantic City Meteorologist Joe Martucci says temperatures will climb through the weekend, with shore towns reaching near 100 degrees and mainland points feeling closer to 110.
“It’s been hot before, and it will be hot again,” said Chuck Cooper, 77, of Brigantine.
Both Atlantic and Cape May counties have issued alerts for excessive heat, cautioning residents and visitors to protect themselves from heat exhaustion and heat-related illnesses.
In Cape May County, public buildings including senior centers, libraries and recreation centers are available as cooling centers. Atlantic County also offers air-conditioned public spaces for seniors at the county senior nutrition centers and an information hotline for those needing help getting out of the heat.
Atlantic City Electric, which services about 556,000 customers in southern New Jersey, said in a statement it has prepared for potential system impacts with increased staffing and deployment of capacitors on the distribution system.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report an average of 658 deaths annually from heat-related illness. Those most vulnerable in these situations include young children, the elderly and outdoor laborers.
Pets also can suffer from heat exhaustion and burns from hot asphalt or concrete.
“The key is to stay hydrated,” said Edward Coursey, 60, of Atlantic City. Coursey and his wife, Patricia, also rode their bikes early in the morning to avoid the rising temperatures expected later in the day.
“See, we freeze the water bottle solid, and by the time we stop, they’re melted,” Coursey said.
“I’d enjoy the heat a lot less if I was working,” said Karen Norris, 64, Newtown, Pennsylvania. Norris and her husband, Antonio Bayon, 60, were wrapping up their shore vacation.
“Being on vacation makes a difference in how you handle the heat,” Norris said.
“The bottom line is if people are outside, at the beach or even working — the sun protection on the skin along with hydrating themselves and limiting physical activity,” said Dr. Rejinder Chugh, medical director of AtlantiCare Urgent Care.
Since July 1, AtlantiCare Urgent Care facilities have treated 39 people, ranging in age from 4 to 92, for heat- or sun-related injuries. AtlantiCare’s satellite emergency department in Hammonton has also treated at least 10 cases of dehydration and heat exhaustion in the past week, a spokesperson for the medical center said.
Chugh and other AtlantiCare medical professionals advise being mindful of sun and heat exposure, staying hydrated and monitoring reactions the heat may have on those taking medication and with chronic illness.
“If people are out in the heat, seek skin protection and drink a lot of fluid. Those are the two most important things,” Chugh said.