A heat wave the likes of which hasn’t been experienced in decades has overhung Knox County and the coast of Maine, bringing record temperatures and sending residents to beaches and air-conditioned spaces.

Thomaston Town Clerk Joan Linscott said Aug. 31 that at noon her home thermometer, which she admitted was in direct sunlight, hit 104 degrees.

Paul Dalrymple, who has maintained daily temperature and precipitation records at his Port Clyde home for 22 years, said that the 88 degrees recorded this week was the highest over that period. He said back-to-back 87 degree high temperatures were also a first. He said the average temperature in Port Clyde this August was 68.8 degrees, which is a record and 4.3 degrees higher than the average.

According to Meteorologist Scott E. Stephens of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center the hottest day in August was Tuesday, Aug. 31 with a high of 89 degrees. That broke the record for that date which was set in 1991 at 83 degrees. Data for Aug. 31 goes back to 1850, Stephens said.

“The all-time hottest for August was 93 degrees set on August 6, 1988,” Stephens wrote in a Sept. 1 e-mail message. “The summer has been much above normal, temperature-wise. It was the warmest July on record for West Rockport.” Stephens said he used data from West Rockport dating back to 1977.

“I love it, I live for this stuff,” said Denise Pukas of Camden. “When you live here in the winter, this is a good thing.”

An Aug. 31 air quality alert from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection warned people that the air quality in Maine over the upcoming several days would “likely be the worst we have seen in several years.” Ground-level ozone concentrations and pollutant levels were expected to reach unhealthy levels along the entire coast of Maine beginning Wednesday and continue into Thursday and likely move inland.

Relief was not expected until late Friday, when wind and precipitation from Hurricane Earl, now making its way up to coast from the Caribbean, would arrive off the Northeast coast.

“At high ozone levels, individuals suffering from a respiratory disease such as asthma, children, and healthy adults who exert themselves can experience reduced lung function and irritation,” the DEP warning said. “Individuals may notice a shortness of breath, coughing, throat irritation, and/or experience an uncomfortable sensation in their chest.”

The alert encouraged people to take the following actions to protect health during periods of unhealthy air quality.

  • Avoid strenuous activity, such as jogging, during this pollution event.
  • Close windows and circulate indoor air with a fan or air conditioner.
  • Avoid using aerosol products such as cleaners, paints, and other lung irritants.
  • Take it easy.

Citizens were also asked to help reduce emissions that contribute to the formation of ozone in the following ways.

  • Conserve electricity.
  • Choose a cleaner commute, such as carpooling or using public transportation.
  • Defer the use of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment until after dusk.
  • Limit idling of vehicles.
  • Refuel cars and trucks after dusk.
  • Combine errands and reduce vehicle trips.
  • Use environmentally friendly paints and cleaning products with low VOC content.

Midcoast forecasts for the remainder of the week call for high temperatures in the 80s with lows in the mid-60s through Thursday. Temperatures should abate on Friday and Saturday as rain arrives. The course of Hurricane Earl was still uncertain as of Wednesday morning.

For more air quality information call DEP’s toll free ozone hotline at 800-223-1196 or visit mainedep.com and select Maine Air Quality Forecast.

The Herald Gazette can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by e-mail at news@villagesoup.com.