DALLAS (AP) -- The Dallas Cowboys pared down their practice schedule in Wichita Falls, while San Francisco residents donned sweaters. Some Floridians headed to the beach, while others clung to the shade of an oak tree.
Statistically, Tuesday is the hottest day of the year in the continental United States, and in many cities, it lived up to the billing.
With clear skies and a bright sun above, Jim Holman of Plano and his twin 4 1/2-year-old daughters munched on peanut butter sandwiches and cantaloupe under a tree outside the Dallas Zoo. Holman, 44, said they'd enjoyed the zoo that morning but planned to visit the indoor exhibits in the afternoon, when the National Weather Service predicted the temperature would reach 100 degrees.
"I grew up in Dallas, so this is normal," Holman said. "This time of year I don't even check the weather forecast. This is what it's like in July. If you get a small breeze and you're in the shade, it's not bad."
In Minneapolis, the projected high was 80 degrees -- plenty hot for Aaron Nunn, 32, a high-rise window washer from St. Paul.
"When the temperature starts to get really warm outside and we're up against the glass, then the sunlight will hit the glass and then it gets magnified and it beams right off the glass, and so you're getting cooked twice over," Nunn said after lowering himself and his co-worker to the ground.
"After work, the first thing I do when I get home, especially in the high heat, is ... I strip down completely naked and I lay under the air conditioner. I sprawl there for a least an hour and I don't move."
Far away on the upper California coast, Mike Ramon, 18, didn't have to worry about finding shade as he hit the streets in search of a job. The projected high in San Francisco was 67 degrees with gray skies and a drizzle.
"I'm waiting to take off my sweater," Ramon said.
The National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., calculates that July 24 is the hottest day in the continental United States. Tuesday's average maximum temperature is 88 degrees; in Texas, obviously, it's even toastier -- between 94 degrees and 95 degrees.
Jay Lawrimore, chief of the climate monitoring branch, arrived at the date by averaging the maximum temperature at 450 weather stations nationwide between July 18 and July 29 in 1961-90.
Meteorologist Scott Stephens explained that the data center currently uses the arbitrary 30-year period as a baseline for temperature comparisons. And the 12-day period was chosen because the earth's peak warmth typically lags at least a month past the summer solstice, he said.
In West Palm Beach, Fla., Jim Horey, 42, of suburban Green Acres, had 15 minutes to spare before he met with clients. Wearing a suit and tie as he walked along the sidewalk that borders the beach, the auditor with the state Department of Revenue said he decided to take advantage of the nice weather.
It was 86 degrees at noon Tuesday. Temperatures were predicted to climb a few degrees higher.
"It's the first bit of sunshine in the last two to three days," he said. "It's breezy, not too hot."
That wasn't Laverne Roberts' assessment as she sat outside her apartment west of downtown West Palm Beach with her cousin and their children, ranging in age from 5 to 10. She doesn't have air conditioning, so they rested in plastic chairs under an oak tree. The children stayed cool with the spray of a water hose.
"It's hot. It's gone enough hot," said Roberts, 42.
In Arkansas, residents carried windbreakers and sweaters across the parking lot at Blanchard Springs Cavern. The cave is always 58 degrees, but the projected high in Arkansas was 100 degrees.
"You'll see people coming in with a coat in the middle of the summertime with sweat dripping off their forehead," administrator Bob Reeves said. "People are finding it much more pleasant down there than outside."
Back in Texas, an 80-degree day would mean an arctic front had blown in.
The Cowboys have built some precautionary measures into this summer's football practice schedule in Wichita Falls, where the temperature was predicted to reach 101 degrees Tuesday.
Throughout their stay in Wichita Falls, the Cowboys will stick to a pattern of two rough days followed by a light one. Tuesday was the first scheduled light day.
Mac Langston, 29, and Louis Gresham, 33, already were drenched in sweat as they dug a hole in a lush, green North Dallas lawn to repair a sprinkler system. The pair said they drink at least a gallon of water a day to stay cool and hydrated.
"I don't mind the summer," Langston said. "That's when we make our money."
Kathy Toler, 53, of Grand Prairie, was dressed for a business appointment in downtown Dallas, but said she swung by the farmers' market for some fresh produce. Market vendors were offering melon samples.
"Coming to the market is one of the few things I'd brave the heat for," she said.
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