SALISBURY — Forget about April showers bringing May flowers — how about Wednesday’s lightning bringing today’s heat wave?
The fearsome display by Mother Nature heralded the oncoming high temperatures, which experts predict will last until Sunday.
Chris Roller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, said a high pressure system has formed to the southeast of the region, bringing with it warm and humid air as the system spins clockwise.
Summer-like temperatures will continue until a cold front moves through the region Sunday night into Monday, dropping temperatures to late-spring norms by the middle of next week. More thunder and lightning may be on the way for Sunday.
Roller said this weekend’s heat wave is uncommon for this time of year but not unheard of.
“I can’t remember the last time we’ve had it (a heat wave in late May), but we’re in mid to late spring; this is probably around the time something like this would happen,” Roller said.
Ryan Breton of AtkinsonWeather.com said it looks like heat will peak today.
“This is a really impressive early season warm spell,” Breton said. “What’s unusual is we haven’t had too many hot days. By now, we’ve typically had a couple of upper 80s or 90-degree days.”
Traffic heading to Salisbury Beach yesterday was already heavy and police are expecting even more car and motorcycle volume today.
At its heaviest, traffic can back up for miles starting near the Route 286 exit on Interstate 95, the Route 110 exit off Interstate 495 in Amesbury and Bridge Road toward the Gillis Bridge and Newburyport.
Because of the weather, Salisbury Beach State Reservation will have lifeguards on duty today through the weekend. Normally, lifeguards are not on duty on Fridays this early in the season.
Salisbury police Chief Thomas Fowler said he will deploy additional police today and tomorrow. Extra officers will be stationed around Salisbury Square and another police officer will be writing tickets to those who don’t feed the town’s parking meters around Salisbury Beach and other areas in town. Parking meter enforcement takes place between May and November each year.
Yesterday, hundreds of sunbathers spent at least some of the day at Salisbury Beach. Parking along North End Boulevard was hard to come by as well on Broadway. Municipal parking lots a little farther away from Broadway had plenty of room. With music blaring from passing cars, visitors snacked on beach pizza, fried dough and other treats.
Around noon yesterday, there were several people at least dipping their toes into the Atlantic. But for those who took the plunge and dove right in, the water, with temperatures hovering in the low 50s, felt nothing short of downright frigid. By the end of July, water temperatures will be in the upper 60s.
Fowler said he was pleased to see visitors return to Salisbury Beach in large numbers but also cautioned them to be safe and patient as the summer beach season approaches.
Because of the weather, state officials advise those with asthma, emphysema and bronchitis, as well as older adults and children, to limit outdoor activity.
Sunbathers and swimmers will have to check with local recreation departments about whether local beaches and pools are open, because it’s early in the season.