Historic heat waves in New England

With the potential for a prolonged period of excessive heat starting this coming Friday, that may last five or six days through the upcoming 4th of July, I thought it a good idea to look back in history.

What I found was startling.

Of note, two historic Heat Waves appear in google searches: The Heat Wave of 1896, and The Heat Wave of 1911.

Both were in a different time, without access to air conditioning or even room fans. Many people worked long hard hours in the heat. But what is interesting about the history of both events is the fact that they're not usually noted because of their lack of visibility. Hurricanes caused many deaths in the past, but they're accompanied by pictures of smashed seawalls, homes, and businesses. Historic snowstorms and blizzards also have the big snow mound pictures, the closed highways, the paralyzed communities. But what pictures are there of Heat Waves? Not many.

According to the New England Historical Society, recounts the two-week long Heat Wave. That's 14 days of sweltering temperatures above 90, sometimes above 100, with high humidity to add to the suffering. "From Boston to New York to Chicago, more than 1500 people died from heat prostration or related illnesses," writes the New England Historical society, that sourced The Boston Globe for the information. Public Works projects were halted. Factories closed. "Horses dropped dead in the street, 120 in one day in Boston." City residents flocked and moved to shoreline communities by the 10's of thousands.

Yankee Magazine writes of the nearly two-week long Heat Wave of 1911, that started on July 1st, with 6 consecutive days of 90 or above temperatures, sometimes getting above 100, stretching from Pennsylvania to Maine, and every state in between. Record High temperatures were shattered on the 4th of July, with 103.6 in Boston, and the Nashua, New Hampshire and Lawrence, Massachusetts stations reporting 106 degrees. Boston Common became a "vast dormitory" of people trying to escape the heat by sleeping not in their homes, but in the park. In all, 2000 deaths were attributed to that Heat Wave.

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