Blistering Southeast Heat Wave Set To Snap Soon

Wednesday, May 26, 2021
AccuWeather forecasters say there is more blistering heat to face in the southeastern United States, but relief is on the not-too-distant horizon as much cooler and less humid air is forecast to sweep through the region during the Memorial Day weekend.

High temperatures in the low to middle 90s F are pretty much a given during the dog days of July and August in the Southern states. Some in the South may even argue that the high heat over a two- to three-month period are long enough. Temperatures at and above this level during late May are not only premature, but also close to daily record territory.

The combination of temperature, humidity and intense sunshine has pushed AccuWeather RealFeel Temperatures to dangerous levels, even by Southern standards.
RealFeel Temperatures are projected to peak near and above the 100-degree mark into the end of the week.

Whether you are a long-time Southerner or a recent northern transplant, caution is advised with conditions this extreme when considering manual labor or vigorous physical exercise outdoors. Regardless of the amount of physical activity, AccuWeather forecasters recommend taking breaks from the heat and drinking plenty of water.

Actual temperatures experienced thus far this week and those forecast into Friday in most locations are 8-15 degrees above average for late May -- and even a few degrees above average for the heart of the summer.

While there has been and will continue to be some day-to-day temperature variation in part of the region, highs will generally range from the middle to upper 80s in the southern Appalachians to the 90s elsewhere for the balance of this week.

On Tuesday, the record high of 90 set in 1953 was tied at Tri Cities Airport in Tennessee. Jackson, Kentucky, set a new record high of 89 on Tuesday, breaking the old daily record of 88 set last year and in 2019.

On Wednesday, Raleigh, North Carolina tied its record of 94 degrees. A bit farther to the north, Lynchburg, Virginia tied a record high of 93 degrees.

Some daily record highs, such as the 99 set in 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina, Thursday, can be challenged. However, in general most record highs are likely to be out of reach from this point forward as an uptick in moisture in the air into Friday will limit the ability for temperatures to soar as high.

But two waves of cooler air will slowly chip away at the heat in the Southeastern states into this weekend.

The first press of cooler air will be weak and limited to areas in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia into Thursday. Temperatures reached 83 degrees in Nashville, Tennessee, Wednesday afternoon following highs in the lower 90s each day since Sunday. Following a high of 94 degrees on Wednesday in Charlottesville, Virginia, maximum temperatures may be held to the upper 80s Thursday.

The second push of cool air will be much more pronounced, extensive and borderline rare for late May this weekend, thanks to a substantial dip in the jet stream and northerly winds.

"After several days where RealFeel Temperatures are expected to surpass 100 degrees from Georgia to the Carolinas, a major cooldown is anticipated during the weekend with temperatures dropping anywhere from 10 to 20 degrees lower than what they will be Thursday and Friday," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.

The spread of cooler and less humid air will be a gradual one, and not a massive, fast-moving sweep that tends to occur during the early spring.

"Relief will first be felt from the northern Gulf states to North Carolina on Saturday, while areas from South Carolina to northern Florida will continue to swelter," Mr. Anderson said.

For example, highs in Charlotte, North Carolina, will trend downward from 91 on Friday to 85 on Saturday and a then a chilly 69 on Sunday. Clouds are expected to rule during the day on Sunday as the cooler air drills in. Following the chance of a shower during the day, sky conditions are forecast to clear Sunday night.

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