Originally created 07/04/97

Suddenly, summer



ATLANTA (AP) - Suddenly, it's Southern fried July.

Just ask Patsy Cool of Watkinsville, who struggled to live up to her name Thursday as temperatures climbed into the mid-to-high 90s.

Mrs. Cool took the day off from work and cranked her thermostat down to 72 degrees. She even skipped her morning coffee. But then she had to make a quick trip outside to her mailbox.

Mrs. Cool's weather report: "It's a barn burner out there! Oh, man, it's terrible."

It's also a far cry from June, when the mercury barely crept above the 70s some days. Cut to Thursday, when forecasters predicted temperatures would get close to 100 in cities such as Augusta, Macon and Columbus. The humidity would make the hottest spots feel more like 110 degrees.

Summer's swift arrival meant Georgians had no chance to get acclimated to the heat and humidity before it approached triple digits.

"We went from cold to hot, just like that," said Mrs. Cool, who was packing for a weekend getaway to the north Georgia mountains.

Throughout June, a low-pressure system stretching from Canada into the eastern United States kept funneling cooler air from the north to the south, said Gary Beeley, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

The hot stuff settled over Georgia just in time for the Fourth of July weekend, but forecasters predicted the blistering temperatures will ease up a little over the next few days.

"It looks like the really hot weather will be kind of short lived," Beeley said. "It's not cool, but we're looking at temperatures dropping back down into the 80s."

The sudden switch from cool to scorch had organizers of Atlanta's Peachtree Road Race sweating over potential health hazards.

The 50,000 runners slated to compete Friday in the 10-kilometer race need to "respect the heat" after training in a much more civil climate, said race director Julia Emmons.

"The ones we're always worried about are the top 5,000," Ms. Emmons said. "They tend to have the large egos and tend to throw caution to the wind."

Although the heat also promised to add sizzle to fireworks shows Friday, don't expect the sun to keep the crowds away. Stone Mountain Park officials are expecting 70,000 people to turn out for the annual Fourth of July display.

"I'll be surprised, to tell you the truth, if we saw a drop in the crowd," said park spokesman Robert Peters. "It's sort of a tradition. I think people plan for this one."

These Richmond County's heat shelters are open:

- Shiloh Comprehensive Community Center, 1635 15th St.

- Powell Apartments, 2244 Broad St.

- Peabody Apartments, 1425 Walton Way.

If you are in need of help, call the Richmond County Emergency Management Office at 821-1155. Some community centers may be opened by county personnel on standby if there is a need.

Columbia County water advisory