How are you coping with Miami’s heat and humidity? This is what ‘mucky’ feels like

·5 min read

What does a hot swamp feel like? Just walk out your front door to find out.

Here in South Florida, we’re used to the humidity. But not quite like this. Temperatures around 90 mixed with moisture in the air mixed with storms ... and you have what could be called the Miami Misery Index. Sticky. Hard to breathe. Disgusting.

“Our facility doesn’t have AC, so working here is a little bit petrifying because we sweat like crazy,” said Jackie Medina, pool manager at Rockway Park in Westchester. “We do have the pool to cool off in, so we could always jump in, refresh.”

Larry Abascal and his dog, Sweet Pea, cool off in the waters off Haulover Beach in Miami-Dade, Florida, June 21, 2021. Many people trying to find relief from the heat and humidity headed to the beach for the sand and surf.
Larry Abascal and his dog, Sweet Pea, cool off in the waters off Haulover Beach in Miami-Dade, Florida, June 21, 2021. Many people trying to find relief from the heat and humidity headed to the beach for the sand and surf.

On paper, 90 degrees may not seem out of the ordinary for a summer day in South Florida. But over the past few days, with more to come, it feels like it’s in the triple digits. You can thank, or rather curse, the heat index — after factoring in humidity, it’s “what it actually feels like to the human body,” said Paxton Fell, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service.

On Sunday, it “felt like” 108, and forecasters were close to issuing an extreme heat warning. It dipped a little to 105 on Monday, but it’s not getting much better on Tuesday. The heat index is forecast to stay in the triple digits the first part of the week, with a high of 88 and a “feels like” of 102, according to the National Weather Service.

Rey Jaffet skates at Haulover Skateboard Park as high heat index temperatures continue across South Florida on Monday, June 21, 2021.
Rey Jaffet skates at Haulover Skateboard Park as high heat index temperatures continue across South Florida on Monday, June 21, 2021.

So, how are people feeling about this? In a few words: sweaty and breathless.

Seated in the shade on the raised curbside in Brickell City Centre in shorts and a T-shirt on Monday, Bryson Traylor took a puff from his cigarette. On his last day of vacation, the 31-year-old from Ohio said he was going to find a pool or head to the beach.

“It’s always hot down here,” Traylor said. “But humidity is my kryptonite.”

Nearby, even close to the bayfront, sweat poured from Isaac Rondon’s face as he and his wife served customers in his food truck on Monday. But inside the truck, it’s hotter.

Worldwide Bistro food truck, parked outside The Market Milkshake Bar near Brickell Park, can reach 140 degrees, said the 22-year-old Rondon. On Monday, three people were working in the food truck, with a large fan because the air conditioning was busted.

The fan “is like the same hot air but it helps,” he said.

The truck is usually parked near the park’s outdoor seating area from noon to 9 p.m. each day. He’s managed it for a year and a half. But since the heat index has climbed, he’s noticed sales have dropped.

“In the afternoon until 8 p.m. the people don’t walk around so much because it’s like too hot to stay outside,” he said.

Seated on picnic tables by the rows of food trucks under blowing fans near the park, Andrew Garcia, 29, and Miguel Ortiz, 22, were chatting as they sipped iced coffee. Garcia, from Hollywood, and Ortiz, from Orlando, said even though they are familiar with South Florida heat, it was so bad they couldn’t breathe.

“It is hot as f--- outside,” Garcia said, laughing. “It’s really uncomfortable and I can’t breathe.”

Ortiz and Garcia work at Kush By Spillover in Coconut Grove. They set up the restaurant’s outside tables dressed in all-black with tucked shirts. The heat can make their jobs unbearable.

“It’s mucky, which is weird because this past winter season was absolutely beautiful and then all of a sudden ... terrible heat ... at like 8 in the morning,” Garcia said.

Ortiz said they were grabbing coffee outside because they needed to have a conversation. Sweating, the two were grateful for the fans and tent along the bayfront in downtown Miami.

“Summer is coming up, but I didn’t expect it to be like this hot,” Ortiz said.

A fisherman with two girls, all wearing wide brim hats to shade from the sun, go fishing near the Haulover sandbar in Miami-Dade, Florida, June 21, 2021.
A fisherman with two girls, all wearing wide brim hats to shade from the sun, go fishing near the Haulover sandbar in Miami-Dade, Florida, June 21, 2021.

But Keisha Mosby, 41, said the heat was worse 11 years ago when she last visited Miami around Memorial Day. Seated with friends a few tables over, she was eating a burger while on vacation. While she didn’t pass out from the heat, she said another friend did.

“This isn’t too bad,” she said. “It’s a little bit humid. But it’s comfortable to me.”

Miami Luxury Window Tinting employees Luis Rivas, left, installs window tinting on a car while his assistant, Juan Perez, right, holds a beach umbrella to protect both of them from the searing sun at Shoma Homes, corner of Northwest 70th Avenue and 177th Street, Palm Springs North in Miami on Monday, June 21, 2021. Normally, window tinting is done in a closed area where workers are protected from the elements but because of the pandemic, Rivas has been going to the customers, and that involves working outdoors exposed to the heat and humidity.
Miami Luxury Window Tinting employees Luis Rivas, left, installs window tinting on a car while his assistant, Juan Perez, right, holds a beach umbrella to protect both of them from the searing sun at Shoma Homes, corner of Northwest 70th Avenue and 177th Street, Palm Springs North in Miami on Monday, June 21, 2021. Normally, window tinting is done in a closed area where workers are protected from the elements but because of the pandemic, Rivas has been going to the customers, and that involves working outdoors exposed to the heat and humidity.

Tropical Storm Claudette isn’t directly to blame for the high heat index, said Fell, the meteorologist, although South Florida did get some moisture from the tail end of the storm.

June historically has the highest heat index values, according to Brian McNoldy, senior research associate at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

“We actually hit a 107.4 degrees heat index twice last year, the highest value measured all year. Regardless of the tenths-of-a-degree nuances, it’s really quite rare to have a heat index above 105 degrees here,” McNoldy said in an email.

The extremely high heat on Sunday was “just a one-day thing,” and McNoldy said that he doesn’t expect to see many more of these extreme values this year. But with climate change, he said, we should expect more high temperature records to be broken.

Meanwhile, the heat and the humidity this week can be more than just uncomfortable. It can be dangerous.

“Be aware of whether you’re feeling the impacts of heat stress,” said Jane Gilbert, Miami-Dade County’s “chief heat officer.” “Make sure you get liquids, water, electrolytes, and out of the heat in any way you can, either getting to a shady spot or getting inside.”

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