Beating the heat ... record

Barb Sweet
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Humidex tops out at 38.7 Wednesday, breaks 1983’s highest recorded temperature

Maybe you were gasping for air in the heat of July 6, 1983, or taking a chill pill to the tune of “Every Breath You Take,” by the Police on somebody’s boom box.

That’s the record-breaking day — 31.5 C — at the St. John’s International Airport — metro was breathlessly buzzing about possibly breaking Wednesday. The humidex — the feels-like temp with humidity factored in —  hit 38.5 that day in 1983.

The highest temperature was actually 29.5 as of 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to Environment Canada data. The humidex, however, hit 38.7, shattering the 1983 record.

But back in 1983 — if you were born by then —  the heat was maybe your excuse for not figuring out the Rubick’s Cube. Or perhaps you quenched your thirst with that new thing at the grocery store — the juicebox.

You might have had a bad hair day from your long frizzy, banged do or perhaps your mohawk fizzled in the humidity.

You certainly didn’t need leg warmers, but chances are you were wearing neon.

If you were in Grade 11, you were two months away from Newfoundland’s first Grade 12 class.

Brian Peckford was premier and the Sprung Greenhouse — his government’s failure — wouldn’t spring up for another four years. His success — the Atlantic Accord — was another two years away.

Another hot day being talked about by local weather buffs is Aug. 14, 1876, but that day also has a tragic notoriety.

The temperature hit 33.9 C that day at the monitoring station then in the downtown. According to McEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada, the ballad “The Spanish Captain” was likely written for the loss of the Mayaquezanna, a Spanish brig lost at Blackhead, near Cape Spear, on Aug. 14, 1876. Both the captain and his wife were drowned.

“With a reckoning and good conduct our due course we did steer.

“Till the Boatswain cried, ‘There’s land ahead, I think it is Cape Spear,’” the ballad goes.

“The farmers on the Southern Shore, as you might understand, were burning turf upon the ground to fertilize their land. … The night was dark with heavy smoke and dismal looked the sky. When in a place called Barren Rock we ran her high and dry,”

In 1876, the population of

St. John’s was less than 25,000 and the entire province had a population of less than 150,000, according to The Statesman’s Yearbook.

If you were a woman back then, you woudn’t be beating the heat in a tank top and shorts, but would instead be perspiring in a corset topped with a heavy dress of ruffles and bustles.

If you were a man, you might be stuck with stiff collars, a suit and mutton chops.

Thomas Edison would not patent the phonograph for another year and a half, nor the incandescant electric light bulb for another three years.

Organizations: International Airport, Environment Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Atlantic Canada, Blackhead

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Recent comments

  • wavy
    July 31, 2014 - 11:40

    As my biology prof, Peter Scott, used to say: "Horses sweat, men perspire and ladies 'feel the heat'".