Today may be the warmest day of the summer, but relief is on the way, weather forecasters said Friday.
"Saturday will be the hottest day of the spell with sunny and humid with a high in the mid-90s," National Weather Service meteorologist Craig Evanego said. "There will be some breezy west winds with a heat index in the Altoona area in the upper 90s, approaching 100 degrees."
"The humidity makes it feel even worse. There are a lot of miserable people out there," said Accuweather meteorologist Tom Kines, who said the temperature could reach the upper 90s. "If people can hang on one more day and ride this out, then it will gradually improve."
Mirror photos by Gary M. Baranec
Kids cool off at Prospect Pool on Friday.
The all-time high temperature in Altoona of 103 degrees was reached July 22, 2011.
Three record high temperatures were recorded in Altoona in June: 90 on June 20, 91 on June 28 and 95 on June 29, according to the Pennsylvania State Climatologist office.
With the temperatures continuously reaching the 90s, people are flocking to local pools and water parks.
Attendance is up at Tipton Waterworks and Rapids at DelGrosso's Amusement Park, spokeswoman Amy Mearkle said.
"There has been no place to find an empty chair the last couple of days," Mearkle said.
Attendance is also up at Hershberger Memorial Pool at The Park at Morrisons Cove in Martinsburg.
"We have seen about a 25 to 30 percent increase over the last week; it is starting to surge. We are seeing a lot of people come when the pool opens at noon and leaving about five o'clock when it gets really hot," Executive Director Roseanne Conrad said. "We are seeing an increase in our receipts from the pool and the weather has had a lot to do with it."
Attendance at Altoona's Prospect Pool has been good but could be even better, said Steve Sauers, superintendent of recreation for the Central Blair Recreation and Parks Commission.
"[Thursday] we hit 270 but I thought there would be more. The Fourth of July attendance was up, but it was half-price day. The week before, we had about 600 on Wednesday," Sauers said. "For June, we averaged about 266; last year for June, it was 178. June was a real good month."
People are arriving earlier at the Tyrone Community Pool.
"People are coming earlier and staying later unless we have thunderstorms. We have had some nice crowds," pool manager Teresa Beisel said. "Our regular hours are 12 to 8 p.m., but with the heat we've been opening around 11:30 and would stay open until 9 or 9:30 if we don't have any thunderstorms."
Another way to keep cool is to use an air conditioner.
Lowe's of Altoona has had a tough time keeping up with demand.
"We are completely sold out. We get five, six or seven a day and they are gone by noon. More are on the way and being shipped," customer sales associate George Miller said. "About every other call we get is someone asking about air conditioners."
Home Depot of Altoona also has been selling a lot of units.
"Air conditioner sales have been extremely brisk. We still have some in stock. I have about 20 portable units and ten of the 15,000 BTUs or larger," store manager Neal Waldron said. "This time of year, once it gets to 90 degrees, everyone is looking for an air conditioner."
The high temperatures also lead to an increased demand for electricity.
Officials at REA Energy Cooperative Inc., Indiana, are urging customers to reduce their energy consumption between the hours of 1 and 7 p.m.
REA Energy also suggests customers set air conditioning at 78 degrees; use appliances such as washer, dryer, dishwashers and pool pumps in the morning or later in the evening; cook with an outside grill; keep curtains and blinds closed to keep it cooler; and turn off unessential lights.
Other ways to conserve energy include switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, locating window air conditioning units where they will be in the shade during the hottest hours of the day and closing air conditioning registers in unused rooms and keep the doors to those rooms closed, said spokesman Scott Surgeoner of FirstEnergy Corp., parent company of Penelec.
Penelec has not had any problems meeting customer demands, Surgeoner said.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is reminding people to take simple steps to prevent heat-related illness.
"Temperatures may feel over 100 degrees or more in many areas, so taking the proper precautions against heat-related illness will be very important," Health Secretary Dr. Eli Avila said.
Healthy people of any age can experience heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to handle the high temperatures. Those at greatest risk are people over 65, infants and young children, and those with heart disease, high blood pressure, breathing problems or other chronic conditions.
Weather conditions are expected to become a bit more comfortable as a cold front is expected to move through on Sunday which may bring with it a thunderstorm or two on Sunday or Sunday night. The high temperature will drop back to the upper 80s but the humidity will remain, Kines said.
By Monday or Tuesday, a more comfortable air mass will move into the region.
"That will be a welcome sight for a lot of us. The high will be back to normal in the lower 80s and we will also have lower humidity," Kines said.