Weather has chilling effect on summer fun

Katie Peter sits in the shade and tries to keep warm during a life guard break at Wavering Pool. Katie visited the pool with the Girl Scout Day Camp for a day of swimming and other activities. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)
Posted: Jul. 17, 2014 8:56 am Updated: Jul. 31, 2014 11:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

When Jessica Foster woke up Wednesday morning, she didn't expect to be sitting poolside in the afternoon.

"I was wearing a coat this morning," Foster said as she stood outside Quincy's Wavering Aquatic Center with four dozen Girl Scouts who were eager to dive in despite temperatures in the low 70s.

It has been a different kind of record-setting weather week in Quincy.

The warmest temperature recorded at Baldwin Field on Tuesday was 70 degrees. National Weather Service records show the previous lowest temperature for July 15 was 72 degrees in 1993.

Early Wednesday, a record low of 52 degrees was established. The previous lowest temperature for July 16 was 54 degrees, set in 1903.

What's the explanation for the cooler-than-normal temperatures for the middle of July?

A blast from the not-so-distant past -- the polar vortex, which dominated the news in January when temperatures dove below zero. The weather pattern is back, making summer feel a bit like fall.

"We have an air mass that has come out of north-central Canada and brought a pool of unseasonably cool air," Jayson Gosselin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in St. Louis, said. "It's really not much different than the pattern than we saw in January."

Tuesday's high of 70 was 16 degrees below the normal high of 86. Wednesday's low was 15 degrees cooler than average.

Gosselin said cooler air is expected to stay in the area until Friday before temperatures begin to return to normal.

"This is going to be a good four-to-five day stretch of cooler temperatures," Gosselin said. "It's a day or two longer than what we saw around the Fourth of July."

The cool air has helped give air conditioning units and those who are used to working in the sometimes brutal summer heat a break, but it has put a serious damper on summer fun like swimming.

Foster, a program specialist for the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois and a director of this week's camp, said the group has altered its plans because of the cool weather. The group was supposed to swim on Tuesday afternoon, but they decided to take in the batting cages and miniature golf offered at Upper Moorman Park. When the girls gathered at Camp Sacajawea on Wednesday, they voted to tough it out in the pool.

"This the first time that we've ever had temperatures this low," Foster said.

Brett Miller, manager at Wavering Aquatic Center, was happy to see the kids lined up and waiting to get into the facility when it opened at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. He said Wavering has been a bit of a ghost town this week, with just nine patrons entering the facility on Monday and six on Tuesday.

The facility shut down by 2:30 p.m. each day.

"I don't know that I've seen anything like that since I've been working here," said Miller, a Park District summer employee since 1999. "Usually, we're dealing with the extreme heat."

Wavering's water temperature of 78 degrees has been warmer than the air temperature.

"When people get out of the water, they're cold and head for their towels," Miller said.

Don't pitch your flip flops and bust out your jeans and hoodies just yet. Gosselin said there is still a good chance for the heat to return.

"The record daily highs through August and into September are around 100 degrees, so that could happen," Gosselin said.