Northern California Swelters Through Heat Wave

Mark Twain once wrote: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." San Franciscans are cursing that quote now, as they swelter through a weeks-long heat wave. Sarah Varney of member station KQED reports on how citizens of the City by the Bay are dealing with the odd weather.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY, I'm Alex Chadwick.

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And I'm Noah Adams.

Few parts of the country have escaped record summer temperatures. Phoenix Arizona hit 111 degrees, Wichita is perspiring at an even 100, and in San Francisco, a heat wave is challenging an old adage about that city's summer weather. From member station KQED Sarah Varney shares the San Franciscan's view of the heat wave.

SARAH VARNEY, reporting:

We haven't seen this much skin during a San Francisco summer, since 1969, or at least since the last gay pride parade. Ten days - ten glorious days of fogless skies, jacket-free jaunts, and sheet-twisting, sand blazing sleepless nights. We are utterly unprepared to deal with this weather. After all, Mark Twain is rumored to have aptly observed: the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. My husband Tad owns a single pair of shorts. He reluctantly retrieved them from storage last week. And like most San Franciscan's, we don't own an air conditioner. Our only fan is a dinky space heater that busted and only the fan works now. Our couch is upholstered in wool, our chairs in mohair, our comforter stuffed with down. Even our Himalayan cat is designed for cooler climes. We all just wilt in this weather.

(Soundbite of laughter)

VARNEY: At the Java Beach Café, across the street from Ocean Beach, Misha(ph) Davis is drunk with heat. She sports a pink mini-skirt and tank top, and looks up at the blue sky through her rhinestone studded glasses.

Ms. MISHA DAVIS (customer, Java Beach Café): I would like to see it stay like this. I rather complain about it being hot than cold, any day. Any day.

VARNEY: Davis lives just down the block and normally her neighborhood would be draped in summer fog, the air so moist drivers turn on windshield wipers and bundled beach walkers brace against the wind.

Ms. DAVIS: It gets inconvenient at times, at home, when it's a little too cold and you don't feel like chucking wood in your fireplace.

VARNEY: In the summer?

Ms. DAVIS: In the summer. If it does get cold. Which it does at nighttime when the dew point hits and it gets really cold and windy. So that's an inconvenience. But I am enjoying the weather and I'm not going to complain as much.

Mr. JAKE GILLIS(ph) (San Francisco resident): Go ahead, go ahead, just do it. Just dump away.

VARNEY: On a sidewalk in the mission district Jake Gillis pours lobster tails, corn on the cob, and chicken legs on to a grill. These warm evenings permit a rare experience in San Francisco: outdoor dining.

(Soundbite of background conversation)

Mr. GILLIS: We haven't been able…

Unidentified male: Smell the summer, Jake. Nine holes.

Mr. GILLIS: Ricardo's been at the beach. He's our resident beach bum.

VARNEY: Ricardo what are you doing?

Mr. RICARDO (San Francisco resident): I'm doing olive oil on lobster. We feel like we're in Connecticut.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified female: He met me, he really met me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified male: Burning the barbeque.

Ms. JEANNETTE WILMERDING (San Francisco resident): Uh oh, we're burning the corn.

VARNEY: Block partier Jeannette Wilmerding has other pressing concerns. The longevity of this heat wave poses significant challenges to her wardrobe.

Ms. WILMERDING: I have like two pairs of shorts and maybe like a skirt. Like hardly any sandals or anything. I just don't wear that kind of stuff when we go out.

VARNEY: Here in San Francisco, turtleneck sweaters and light wool pants are usually in heavy rotation in July as much as January. But rest assured, the heat wave in San Francisco is breaking. Last night I saw a whisper of pink fog slithering under the Golden Gate Bridge. The air smelled cooler and this morning I stuffed a sweater in my bag. Soon the fog will pour down over the hills, race through the streets, through our apartment windows, and we will all settle down for a cold summer's nap. For NPR News, I'm Sarah Varney in San Francisco.

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