WILKES-BARRE — Taking shelter in the Kirby Park Pavilion on Wednesday afternoon, Al Sheets said he’s no fan of the summer heat. “I should have lived in Alaska,” said Sheets, 67. “You can always put more clothes on (if it gets cold), but you can be naked and still sweating.” With the humidity high and temperatures soaring up through the 80s, many local residents are seeking ways to beat the heat. As of Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service in Binghamton, New York, was predicting temperatures of 87 to 93 degrees over the next week in Wilkes-Barre. The Weather Channel’s forecast as of Wednesday morning differed slightly, showing highs ranging from 90 to 97 degrees. According to the Weather Channel’s own data, highs in Wilkes-Barre have averaged 85 degrees month to date — five degrees higher than the city’s monthly average high for July. And despite the high temperatures and sparsity of rain, WNEP-TV Chief Meteorologist Tom Clark said Luzerne County is not officially in a drought. “You could argue that we are, but according to the United States Drought Monitor, the area is classified as being ‘abnormally dry.’ The next level up is moderate, and they call that ‘a moderate drought.’ Some places in the Northern Tier have that classification,” Clark said. “We’re down a few inches in rainfall this summer,” Clark said, “and we’re not getting any better. You can’t rule out we won’t be in a moderate drought by the end of the week.” Sitting beneath a tree in Kirby Park, 87-year-old Teresa Piampiano said she’s lived in the Northeast since 1975, when she emigrated from Italy, and that this summer feels hotter than last. But according to National Weather Service meteorologist Mitch Gilt, the spike in temperatures forecast for the next week “isn’t unusual for July or early August.” Gilt said that for the NWS to issue an advisory, the temperatures must rise to over 100, or at least feel that way on the heat index. The last time the temperature reached 100 degrees in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area, according to Clark, was July 15, 1995. The hottest temperature ever in the area was 103 degrees on July 9, 1936. “It’s rare to get up to 100 degrees around here. Maybe once every 10 or 15 years, it will hit 100,” he said. Three straight days of temperatures at 90 or above officially constitute a heatwave, Clark said. And whether it’s one day or a week’s worth of such high temperatures, it’s important to stay safe in the hot weather. According to the National Weather Service’s Hazard Heat Report, 45 people died across the country as a result of extreme heat in 2015, which is a notable spike from the 2014 total of 20. In 2015, the most dangerous place to be was in a permanent home – likely with little or no air conditioning – according to the report. Pennsylvania was ranked as the third most deadly state, with four heat-related deaths in 2015. Gilt advised checking up on the elderly when temperatures are high, especially those with respiratory issues. He also stressed that it is unacceptable to leave children or pets in hot cars with the windows up. Sheets sported a shirtless, shoeless look when describing his methods for staying cool in the summer heat. Taking cold showers and staying in air conditioning, he said, is the key. Times Leader reporter Steve Mocarsky contributed to this report. Editor's Note: This story has been edited to correct the temperature ranges.
Al Sheetz, 67, enjoys the afternoon heat under a pavillion in Kirby Park.
Teresa Piampiano, 87, sits in solitude under a shade tree in Kirby Park on Wednesday.