How the hottest day ever in the UK felt

How the hottest day ever in the UK felt

The Hampstead Heath swimming pools in north London draw the city's residents on Tuesday during Britain's historic heat wave.  (James Forde for The Washington Post)
The Hampstead Heath swimming pools in north London draw the city’s residents on Tuesday during Britain’s historic heat wave. (James Forde for The Washington Post)


LONDON – On the hottest day ever in the UK, with temperatures rising above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, we found Earthlings huddled next to the chilled part of the Marks & Spencer store at Marylebone train station.

“I’ve been standing here for about 10 minutes,” said Andy Martin, 28, a video technician. “Do not tell anyone.”

This is not normal here. This type of heat. This heat wave.

The Meteorological Office, the country’s weather service, at least announced it 34 locations in Britain the previous high temperature exceeded, with a wide area of ​​southeastern and central England topping 40 degrees Celsius. It’s a hell of a 104 Fahrenheit.

A fire spread in Dagenham, East London, as temperatures rose above 40 degrees Celsius or 104 Fahrenheit on 19 July. (Video: Storyful)

The UK is not made for this. The country’s homes and shops, train stations and subway cars, its schools and offices – very, very few of them have air conditioning.

Has it ever been so hot in human history in the British Isles? Maybe not.

It was a kind of tremor, a feeling of anxiety in the capital this signal day. It was windy, but the dry sirocco-feeling wind, common in the Mediterranean, in Sicily and not in Southhampton, with the summer lions crackling and people stumbling around, from one spot to another, while ambulance crews were kept busy peeling heat victims off the sidewalks .

Walking into some of Britain’s hottest homes on the hottest day was like stepping into a steam room.

When journalists from The Washington Post entered some of the apartments on Chalcots Estate, a public housing development in central-north London, they were greeted with a thick heat.

“Can you feel it? It’s so hot,” said Mandy Ryan, who works as a residents’ association representative.

She went into her living room and pointed to a ceiling fan, whose blades rotated slowly, accusing the appliance of being useless.

“It does nothing,” she said.

Like many residents of the tall tower block just north of Regents Park, she has spectacular views of the London skyline.

Visualizes Europe’s heat wave with melting ice sticks

She also has a nice collection of cuckoo clocks and ceramic dog decorations. But inside her home on Tuesday, the most striking was the soupy air.

Bonnie, her Labradoodle, panted heavily at her feet.

“We’re not going to have a lamb leg for dinner tonight,” she joked, nodding at the unused oven.

John Szymanska, a handyman originally from Poland, refurbished and painted an apartment in Hampstead in north London.

“It’s a misery,” he said, drenched in sweat. “But what can you do?” he asked. “It’s getting warmer everywhere.”

Why this European heat wave is so scary

Unlike some immigrants, who may mention that they find the English weak in this heat, Szymanska offered sympathy. “I empathize with them. They are not used to this. “

Back at Chalcots Estate, Paul Rafis (38), a butcher and hip-hop artist, struggled.

His sofa bed was covered in fur. He explained that his dog, Wise, traps a lot. Not that Rafis sleeps much.

“When it’s hot, you suffer in these blocks,” he said.

In his studio apartment on the 15th floor, Rafis was worried that his refrigerator might catch fire – so he turned it off for four hours and put the food in the freezer.

Some experts have said that the fire that engulfed nearby Grenfell Tower in 2017, killing 72 people, may have been caused by overheated wires in a refrigerator with a freezer.

“Nothing in the house is used to this weather,” said Rafis, knocking on the refrigerator, which felt warm again shortly after it was reconnected.

Europe is simmering in record heat waves while thousands are fleeing forest fires

London’s Tube can be notoriously hot – and no line has a worse reputation than Bakerloo.

“Anyone who likes to paddle on rivers of molten lava should head over to the Bakerloo Line, where they will feel very at home,” Labor Party lawmaker Karen Buck twitret.

We came in with a bit of trembling at Charing Cross station. There were industrial-sized fans that forced air into the narrow passages, but just like a cave, deep underground, there were pockets of cool air at the platforms.

Inside the carriages it was quite ripe.

For Angel Rodriquez, a Spanish-born kitchen worker on his way to his afternoon shift, the trip was not as bad as he had imagined.

However, he was not philosophical. “This is all of us,” he remarked, saying that climate change would only intensify and make things worse. He nodded when he was reminded of the headlines from home, where huge forest fires have consumed parts of Spain.

Spain ravaged by forest fires during record-breaking heat waves

The streets of London were not empty, but they were definitely quiet, with the city windows draped in curtains to block the sun. The royal parks and their long lawns were largely empty, with only a few hardy souls scattering blankets in the shade of the trees.

The Lido, a public swimming pool on Parliament Hill, had a large number of people waiting to enter. In the water, children splashed with joy while the lifeguards blew the whistle.

Back at Chalcots Estate, the playgrounds were childless. The authorities had encouraged even healthy young people and their parents to stay indoors.

Some residents told The Post that they had installed air conditioning – only 3 per cent of British homes have it – or bought simple fans. However, most people drank cold liquids and avoided the sun.

A few, albeit a minority, said they embraced the heat.

“I sweat, but I love it,” said Chantal Peters, 43, a mother of six.

She said things felt worse two years ago when the temperature rose during a pandemic. “It was 34C, we were locked inside. Now that was hot. It was disgusting.”

Sean Walsh, who works in sales, was visiting his 71-year-old mother who lives in an apartment on the top floor. His daughter was released from school due to the heat.

He called the weather “brutal.”

“It’s uncomfortable and hot, and this country is not designed for this heat,” he said. “The environment is changing and people are forgetting it. All this concrete, in any big city, it’s a cooling rib. You would be blind Freddy if not read the research and see that this is going to continue and we have to adapt.”

Especially in tall buildings, which radiate heat. “It multiplies,” Walsh said.

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