1911 Eastern North America heat wave

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1911 Eastern North America heat wave
Dates 4 July – 15 July (11 days)
Areas affectedNorth Eastern United States
Children seeking shade during the July 4, 1911, heat wave in New York City

The 1911 Eastern North America heat wave was an 11-day severe heat wave that killed at least 380 people though estimates have put the death toll as high as 2,000 people.[1] The heat wave began on July 4, 1911 and didn't end until July 15.[2] In Nashua, New Hampshire, the temperature peaked at 106 °F (41 °C).[3] In New York City alone, 158 people and 600 horses died.[4][5]


Throughout June, the temperature had been consistent with what normally was felt during New England summers, but starting in July, dry air which originated from the southern great plains began to flow into Canada before being swept south toward the east coast. The hot wind suppressed cooler ocean breezes, and this caused the temperature to rise so suddenly and dramatically that in Providence there was an 11 degree rise in temperature in a half hour.

The area between Pennsylvania to Maine was reportedly most affected by the heat. During the 11 days, temperature records were set all over New England. In Boston, the temperature rose to 104° (40 °C) on July 4, an all-time record high that still stands today.[6]

The heatwave was finally ended by a severe thunderstorm, which traveled across the Northeast and killed an additional five people.[7]

Heatwave impacts[edit]

The first day of the heatwave caused crowds in major cities to form around thermometers so they could watch the temperature rise. Pedestrians in these crowds reportedly began to collapse from heat stroke as the day went by. By night time, mothers walked the street with crying infants hoping to keep them awake in fear that if they slept in their cribs they would not awaken.[8]

As the heat wave's second day began, 17 people had died from drowning alone after trying to swim in order to escape the heat. By the time the sun had risen on July 5, industry had come to a standstill. Throughout the region factories were closed and mail service was suspended. Due to the temperature indoors many began sleeping outside either on roofs of apartments or on sidewalks with at least 5,000 people sleeping on the Boston Commons alone.[9]

Besides deaths caused directly by the heat, it was reported that in every major city affected by the heatwave that the temperatures had been driving people insane and causing suicides.[10] One such example reported by The New London Day, was of an elderly Boston man named Jacob Seegar who reportedly was driven so insane by the heat that he killed himself with a revolver in order to escape it.[11]

Due to the excessive heat rail lines had become melted and bent.[citation needed]

The death toll continued to rise until finally a sudden thunderstorm brought a wave of relief, soon after which temperatures returned to their normal levels for good.[12]

The 1911 heat wave is considered the most deadly weather related disaster in the history of New England.[citation needed] In Philadelphia alone, 158 people were reported to have died from the heatwave[7] and across the north east 200 people were reported to have drowned while swimming in an attempt to escape the heat.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ jshea@courant.com, JIM SHEA,. "In 1911, Deadly Heat Settles Over Northeast". courant.com. Retrieved 2018-08-24.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  2. ^ "Eleven Dead in Pittsburg. Ice Famine Grows Worse and Suffering Is Great. Cooling Breeze Last Night and Promise of Thunder Showers to Follow". The New York Times. July 11, 1911. The second day of the second record-breaking heat spell in a fortnight was hot, but the maximum temperature did not equal that reached just a week ago. The wind turned just in time, blowing an eighteen-mile comforter, and 95.3°F (35.2°C) was the maximum recorded, as against 98°F (36.6°C) last Monday.
  3. ^ "July 4, 1911: Heat wave strikes Northeast". The History Channel. Retrieved 2010-11-07. On this day in 1911, record temperatures are set in the northeastern United States as a deadly heat wave hits the area that would go on to kill 380 people. In Nashua, New Hampshire, the mercury peaked at 106°F (41.1°C). Other high-temperature records were set all over New England during an 11-day period. ...
  4. ^ "40 Die As Heat Wave Nears End. Cooler Weather Due Today. Little Relief in Last Night's Shower". The New York Times. July 7, 1911. Retrieved 2011-10-14. While New York got its promised shower at 9 o'clock last night, a five-minute sprinkling just sufficient to wet the pavements, there was no change in the temperature and the remainder of the night was as hot as were the five nights preceding. ... In New England and the West and in some parts of New York State local storms broke the heat wave last night. But like New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, ...
  5. ^ "Heat's Grip Broken After 32 More Die; Drop of Ten Degrees Marks End of Torrid Spell That Cost 146 Lives Here in Six Days". The New York Times. July 8, 1911. Retrieved 2010-11-07. With a suddenness which astonished even the weather sharps the heat wave broke at 1:30 yesterday afternoon. Within 30 minutes the temperature dropped from the maximum mark of 87°F (30.5°C), which the thermometers had held for several hours, to 77°F (25°C), furnishing ten degrees of the best cheer which New Yorkers had experienced for many years. During the day, however, thirty-two died of the heat.
  6. ^ http://www.weather.com/weather/wxclimatology/daily/USMA0046?climoMonth=7
  7. ^ a b "Heat wave strikes Northeast - Jul 04, 1911 - HISTORY.com". HISTORY.com. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  8. ^ jshea@courant.com, JIM SHEA,. "In 1911, Deadly Heat Settles Over Northeast". courant.com. Retrieved 2018-08-24.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  9. ^ "The Meriden Daily Journal - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  10. ^ "The 1911 Heat Wave Was So Deadly It Drove People Insane - New England Historical Society". www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  11. ^ "The Day - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  12. ^ "The Deadly 1911 Heat Wave That Drove People Insane". HISTORY. Retrieved 2018-08-24.

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