Season's dog days lack usual bite


Sherrita Gibson, 22, walks to the downtown bus stop in a heavy downpour with wind pushing her umbrella askew on Monday. Rain is expected to continue throughout the week.

TIM HUSSIN/Special to The Sun
Published: Tuesday, August 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, July 31, 2006 at 11:42 p.m.
While other U.S. cities suffered from a lethal heat wave, Gainesville enjoyed a month of weather remarkable only for its slightly cooler nights and lack of hurricanes.
In Gainesville, where the average low for July is 72, the temperature dipped into the 60s for 11 nights in July, said Jason Hess, National Weather Service forecaster. On July 9, the mercury dropped as low as 61 degrees.
"That is pretty amazing for the month of July," Hess said.
The cooler nights were accompanied by slightly warmer days, Hess said, although the month's average high, 91 degrees, was the same in July 2005.
The unusual temperatures were caused by dry conditions lingering from late spring, he said, although July's afternoon thunderstorms brought the area close to the average level of rainfall.
Although it may not have felt that way to anyone sweating on a sidewalk in the afternoon, the lack of moisture lowered the heat index, which is how hot it feels outside, by 5 to 10 degrees from normal, Hess said.
Much of the United States is suffering from a heat wave, which has killed more than 100 people in California, but Florida is usually spared that kind of "stagnant weather pattern" thanks to the sea breezes that blow across the peninsula, he said.
While the heat index may reach 100 degrees during most of Florida's summer, he said, temperatures rarely go beyond 105 degrees, the point where the human body begins to break down.
Alachua County Fire and Rescue treats cases of heat exhaustion every year, but there has not been a "marked increase" of cases this summer, said Megan Crandall, public information officer.
This is partly because Floridians have experience dealing with the heat, she said.
Floridians usually recognize the symptoms of exhaustion, which include muscle cramps, faintness and dizziness, and know to move indoors and drink water, she said.
But while Florida is protected from extremes of temperature, it usually suffers from other types of summer weather.
By the end of July 2005, Florida had seen seven named tropical storms and hurricanes develop in the Atlantic Ocean.
This year, only two - Alberto and Beryl - have developed thus far, but that's normal for the hurricane season, Hess said.
Only a couple storms usually develop in June and July, he said, but then "they really pick up in the middle of August."
For example, the 2004 hurricane season, which experienced 16 named storms, began late.
The first storm of that season, Hurricane Alex, developed July 31.
As for August, the month will begin with partly cloudy weather today. There is an expected high of 94 degrees and a 40 percent chance of rain, most likely in the late afternoon, Hess said.

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