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South Florida sweats through hottest summer ever

First we shivered through a record cold winter. Now we’re sweating through a record hot summer.

The combined average temperatures in June, July and August were the warmest ever in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, the National Weather Service in Miami said Wednesday.

Overall, it was about 2 degrees warmer than normal, enough to break previous summer heat records set 12 years ago — and make South Floridians find creative ways to cool down.

“I don’t have any air conditioning at home. To stay cool, I have a fan. Sometimes I have to strip naked,” said Dorothy Gallimore, 69, as she waited at a bus stop in Lauderdale Lakes.

Meanwhile, the South Florida Water Management District on Wednesday said summer rainfall has been slightly less than normal. June through August saw 20.53 inches of rain district-wide; the average is 22.5 inches.

According to the weather service, South Florida’s three major cities broke heat records set in 1998:

Fort Lauderdale saw an average summer temperature of 84.6 degrees, breaking the record of 84.57.

West Palm Beach averaged 84.6 degrees (vs. 84.2 degrees), and Miami’s average was 85.17 degrees (vs. 84.98).

The normal summer temperature is 82.2 degrees in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, and 83.17 in Miami.

Blame persistent high pressure over the eastern United States for the heat, said meteorologist Robert Molleda, who predicted near normal temperatures in the coming months.

“In the summertime, when you have high pressure, it dries out the atmosphere,” he said. “You have less clouds and more sun.”

Molleda added that global warming likely had nothing to do with it.

“These types of weather patterns occur over a short period of time and over a relatively small area,” he said. “It’s not a global pattern.”

South Florida’s current heat wave has little bearing on hurricane season, Molleda said. If a tropical storm were to approach, the heat might help sustain it, but warm sea surface temperatures that extend “way out into the Atlantic Ocean” are a system’s primary energy source.

Ketly Blaise Williams, of Royal Palm Beach, said she can’t remember a hotter summer.

“I’m running the air conditioner and ceiling fans to stay cool,” said Williams, who runs a language interpreting business. “My FPL bill is close to $200.”

Carolyn D’Amico, of Fort Lauderdale, was walking on the beach in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea on Wednesday. She said it was something she did not do in the heart of summer.

“The end of July was brutal,” she said. “I stayed inside in the air conditioning.”

Tim Chamberlin, a welder at Prime Mechanical Company, revealed his secret for working in the heat.

“I’ve learned to pace myself and drink lots of liquids,” he said.

Despite the record hot summer, the average South Florida temperature from January through August remains about 2 degrees below normal, Molleda said. That’s because the winter months were about 4 to 5 degrees below normal and set a number of cold records.

That chilly weather was the result of persistent low pressure over the United States, allowing cold air masses from Canada to plunge to Florida.

“All of the sudden, we’ve totally switched the pattern,” Molleda said, adding that high pressure tends to block cold air from coming this far south.

To give some idea of the overall heat being generated, temperatures in the interior sections of South Florida reached or exceeded the 100 degree mark on June 14 and 16, July 8-10, July 28- 31 and Aug. 14- 20.

The highest unofficial temperature reading was 102 degrees at Brighton Reservation in northern Glades County on July 31.

One reason the summer seemed so hot was because nights were so warm.

In West Palm Beach, the low temperature didn’t drop below 80 degrees for 25 days, shattering the record of 14 days set in 2003 and 2005. Fort Lauderdale went for 38 days, breaking the 32-day record set in 2006. And Miami went for 40 days, beating the record of 33 days set in 1998.

Michael Dunnaway, 25, a hairstylist from West Palm Beach, said he loves the heat — but still tries to stay indoors as much as possible.

“I have no outside activities during the day,” he said.

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