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After WNY waited for summer, now waiting for summer to cool off

Buffalonians were clamoring not long ago for the weather to warm up and the summer to begin.

But this is not what they had in mind.

Just a week and a half into the official start of summer, Buffalo and Western New York is stuck in a heat wave that topped 90 degrees on Sunday and threatens to hover in that range for most of the coming week.

"It's excruciating," said Gail Rytel, while shopping at the Clinton-Bailey Farmers & Flea Market on the East Side.

"I have COPD," she said, referring to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, "and I'm huffing and puffing."

Sunday's high reached 92 degrees at 2:37 p.m. at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, where the National Weather Service measures the official temperature. That was just 1 degree shy of the record for July 1 set in 1963.

The normal high temperature for that date? A relatively pleasant 79 degrees, or 13 degrees cooler.

Downtown Buffalo was slightly cooler, with temperatures in the low 80s due to the cooling effect of Lake Erie.

Elevated levels of humidity made it seem even worse.

Through Monday night, a number of counties, including Niagara and northern Erie counties, are under an excessive heat warning because the heat index – a combination of the humidity and the temperature, reflecting what it actually feels like – will be at very high levels of 105 degrees or higher.

Early Sunday evening, nearly 10,000 customers in Erie and Niagara counties lost power.

Linda Jacob of Lovejoy escaped the heat by going into the Autumnwood Senior Center several blocks from her house. It was one of two community centers opened by the city on Sunday to help people cool off, but Jacob found herself the only person there around 1 p.m.

"I live upstairs and it just gets really hot up there," Jacob said. "I was looking for some place to beat the heat."

Jacob had gotten away from the heat on Saturday by going to the public library. She was grateful for the senior center being open Sunday, but thought the hours should have been noon to 5 p.m., instead of the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. hours, to help people cool off in the late-afternoon hours.

"You have to leave at 3 when it's the hottest time of the day," Jacob said.

Sisty Rogerson found a spot for herself sitting in the shade outside her apartment on Norwood Avenue in the Elmwood Village.

Rogerson, who uses a walker, called a cab to run an errand rather than risk walking under the hot sun.

"If I had walked, I'm sure I would have had to call a cab en route," said Rogerson, who wondered how much of the warmer weather has to do with global warming. "It feels like it's harder than most summers."

David and Brenda Lytle were not thrilled with the weather, either, as they crossed Clinton Street.

"It's not usually this hot this early," Brenda Lytle said.

"I absolutely hate it," David Lytle said. "I'm a winter guy and this is just not me."

The weather was no big deal for Daron Sanders, who was also at the flea market.

"I'm used to this," he said. "I'm from North Carolina, so this is nothing for me."

The hot spell, which began on Saturday with a high of 85, is expected to continue through at least Thursday, with temperatures reaching into the high 80s and possibly the 90s again.

"We won't really see any relief until possibly Friday, when we are expecting a cold front to come down that should cool things down and remove some of the elevated humidity by Saturday," meteorologist Shawn Smith said.

Showers and thunderstorms are also a possibility late in the week; that would cool the area by up to 10 degrees, he said.

Until the latter part of the week, the daytime and the nighttime will be a struggle for those without the benefit of cool air.

"For those without air conditioning, it's just almost unbearable at nighttime," Smith said. "If you don't have a cooling method, you don't get that relief. Day after day of this heat can really get to a certain portion of the population.

"The elderly, the very young, pregnant women and those with with respiratory conditions are more at risk," he said. "We definitely like to advise people to take precautions whenever outside."

With perspiration mounting on his forehead, Rogelio "House" Castellanos was manning a smoker near the corner of Clinton and Clare streets, with hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill for sale.

"I'm pretty hot, but the show must go on," Castellanos said. "I can't just sit around if I'm trying to do a business here watching TV. I have to be consistent and let everyone know I'm here."

The heat, he said, was forcing a change in his culinary plans.

"I usually be doing ribs, leg quarters, kebabs, but it's too hot for that today," he said. "I'm trying to think what I'm going to do the rest of the week because nobody wants to be sitting down and be eating messy food in 90-degree weather."

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