Share this article

print logo

Hot work keeping your cool in Buffalo

The same day that Buffalo was named one of the country’s Top 10 “Chill Cities” for summer comfort, the National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for the area and warned people to stay out of the sun, avoid unnecessary outdoor activity and check on people who may be without air conditioning.

And then there are those whose jobs make you feel hot just to think about: roofers, highway workers and people like Ayoub “Mike” Abboud.

“We’re half-roasting, half-cooking,” said Abboud from inside the Knight Slider food truck Thursday. “We had a reading in here yesterday of, like, 120 degrees, so to ease the heat we hide the thermometer now.”

Stepping outside to talk a little more about how they have handled the above-average temperatures this week, Abboud remarked, “Wow, it’s cool out here!”

Not really.

Thursday was the region’s fifth “90-90” day in a row – with temperatures parking themselves at or over 90 degrees, and humidity over 90 percent. That combination creates the potential for heat-related medical problems, like heat stroke or heat exhaustion, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends that people working outside take frequent breaks out of the sun.

For those employed outside the climate-controlled world, it’s all relative.

“I’ve worked in restaurants in New York City and Florida,” Abboud said, “and it’s still nothing like the heat in this black truck in the hot sun with the burner going. We go through about a 24-count case of water every shift.”

Construction workers replacing a water main on Michigan Avenue echoed that. “You’ve got to keep well-hydrated,” said Mike Poorten, who joked, “especially if you were drinking the night before.”

Poorten said he preferred working in 30-degree weather to the 90s, while his co-worker, Bud Giczkowski, likes it in the 70s. Hot or not, though, he said it’s just part of the job.

The hole the men were working in was in full sun, and cooling off in the spray from the water main wasn’t a practical option – though there was a light mist from the nearby hospital’s massive rooftop cooling system. So, they and the others on the job from Visone Construction sought occasional breaks in shade across the street.

Maximilian Perez Bode was making his own shade at a parking lot on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Carlton Street.

The small booth meant to protect attendants from the weather works better against snow than heat, so he set up a portable awning outside it to cover a lawn chair and cooler.

The booth provided electricity for his music, and his friend Tyshika Cylar was there for company – but not for long.

“I’m heading for the A.C. soon,” said Cylar, who is a volunteer at nearby Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

“I’m used to working in a hot climate,” said Perez Bode. “I used to work for Time Warner, and up on those poles, I can’t tell you how hot it is. Now, I’m down here, and the ‘hot’ comes from the asphalt.”

Mail carrier Joe Bak has even less shade along his route in the city, since the October storm of 2006 took down many of the trees. But he was keeping a chilling secret under his hat. Literally.

He lifted off the wide-brimmed topper and pulled out a plastic bag full of ice that he had stashed in the crown.

“I pick it up at the pizzeria on my break,” he said. “They’re nice enough to give it to me.”

It makes a difference. The small Postal Service trucks do not have air conditioning.

As for those roofers ...

Gary Carpenter and Anthony Terrana Jr. have spent a brutal week bent over in the hot sun on top of a house on Saranac Avenue. Terrana said he has blisters all over his back from being out there.

They were still working at 8 p.m. Wednesday when a little breeze came up. “It felt like heaven,” Carpenter said.

The forecast for the next few days is a little better. Today will still be hot and steamy, moderated by breezes along the lakefront and warmer inland, and then things could get both wetter and drier.

“A cold front will be coming through Friday night,” said Tom Paone of the National Weather Service.

“That will bring some thunderstorms and a noticeable change. It will be somewhat cooler with much, much less humidity,” Paone said.

That will last for a day or two before temperatures and humidity start creeping up again.

Nothing on the immediate horizon is expected to be as stifling as the past few days, which led the University at Buffalo to send out an advisory to reduce electrical demand on its South Campus during high heat times by turning off unnecessary equipment like computers and appliances, and prompted D’Youville College to close.

There was a certain irony that the same week Buffalo and the entire Northeast were baking, Bert Sperling released his latest “Best Places” list, for the best cities to spend a cool and comfortable summer. Of his Top 10 Chill Cities, Buffalo-Niagara Falls ranked No. 6, with average highs of 80 degrees and overnight lows of 60.

As the Weather Service meteorologists noted, the weather is typical for this time of year – no records have been set – and it isn’t going to last much longer. But while it is hot, there are plenty of people who are determined to celebrate it.

Shawn Fikling and Sameer Masand are office workers on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus who spent their lunch hour Thursday eating under a shade tree, when it was about 89 degrees, instead of dining inside.

“That’s exactly the reason we came outside. We are in the office all day,” said Sameer, who is from India. “This is beautiful.”

Fikling was happily philosophical. “People complain that it’s too cold and then that it’s too hot,” she said. “We should enjoy the moment and enjoy the sunshine.”