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Even on its hottest days, Buffalo has never officially hit 100 degrees

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Beating the heat

Beth Ellenberger reads a book under an umbrella at Bennett Beach in Angola on July 7, 2020.

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Editor's note: This story was originally published Aug. 3, 2006.

For those who like their information precise, it happened at 3 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 27, 1948, near the end of President Harry Truman's first term.

That was the hottest day ever in recorded Buffalo history, dating back to 1870. On that late-August afternoon, the temperature climbed to 99 degrees — or just shy of 99, but more on that later.

It has never been hotter, and Buffalo boasts the distinction of being one of the few cities in America never to have the official temperature reach 100 degrees.

There's no mystery why. And while Western New Yorkers may not appreciate it during the current hot, hazy and overly humid stretch, we can thank our built-in air conditioner.

"The biggest reason is the position of Lake Erie," National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Sage said. "We have a prevailing southwest wind here, and because the lake has never been hotter than 80 degrees, the air over the lake is cooled by lake waters. Then the southwest winds bring that lake-cooled air farther inland."

That's what happened Tuesday (Aug. 1, 2006). Despite extremely high humidity and dew points, strong winds off the lake pulled cooler air inland and kept the temperature at a relatively low 87 degrees.

The temperature Wednesday (Aug. 2, 2006) reached 90 degrees at 4:23 p.m.

Sage isn't anywhere near old enough to have measured the temperature on Aug. 27, 1948. But he did know the man who took the reading, Assistant Weatherman Benjamin Kolker.

"The actual temperature was 98.6, but we round everything to the nearest degree," Sage said. "So the hottest reading was the same as a person's body temperature."

"ALL-TIME HEAT RECORD IS SMASHED HERE," blared the banner eight-column headline on that day's Buffalo Evening News.

"Baked, boiled, broiled and basted, all at the same time, Buffalonians made a sorry sight today for a midsummer menu as the temperature set an all-time high," the lead of the story stated. "They were done to a turn, and it wasn't a good turn either."

The next day's Buffalo Evening News chronicled 100-plus readings in areas outside Buffalo for the previous day, including 106 in Niagara Falls, 105 in Akron and 104 in Cowlesville.

"To cope with the heat in Buffalo today, the majority of our citizens ... did the best thing they could think of — got out of town," the story continued. "Roads leading to lakes, rivers, streams, rivulets, creeks and watering troughs were thronged with cars.

The next hottest day was in early September 1953, when the temperature hit 98 degrees. Three other days last century had 97-degree readings.

The hottest summer in recent years apparently was 1988. Not only was there a 97-degree day on July 6, but the National Weather Service also recorded seven dates in July with the highest temperature for that date, four more in August and one in June.

While Sage expects that other communities, in Maine and northern Michigan maybe, have never had a 100-degree reading, he doubts there are many at Buffalo's latitude that have never hit triple figures.

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