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Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 08/25/2009

Hot, Humid, Hazy Williamsburg

By Kevin Ambrose

* Heat and Humidity Building: Full Forecast | Storm Photo Sequence *

The Fife and Drum Corps parade down Duke of Gloucester Street minutes after a quick-moving thunderstorm had soaked Colonial Williamsburg. As the sun emerged after the storm, the air felt quite humid. It must have felt especially uncomfortable for the performers in their colonial uniforms. As I was taking this photo, I heard a child's voice exclaim, "Look, they are about to step in horse poop!" I held my laughter until after I took the photo. Yep, they marched right through it, just like in colonial times.

I have many childhood memories of hot, summer vacations to Williamsburg, touring the colonial attractions and visiting Busch Gardens with my family. Over the years, trips to Williamsburg have become a tradition for me and I take my family to visit the same sites and parks that I enjoyed as a kid. Last year, we had unseasonably cool summer weather for our trip, but this year, the weather was back to normal -- hot, humid, and hazy.

Keep reading for more photos of Williamsburg's humid, hazy weather.

The Governor's Palace during the early morning, with haze and fog slightly obscuring the view.

I sometimes wonder how our colonial ancestors managed through the heat and humidity of a typical Mid-Atlantic summer, without having the luxury of electricity and air conditioning. I read an 18th century journal that described how the author would look forward to summertime thunderstorms since they would create cool breezes to break up the afternoon heat. Some colonial residents were fortunate to have access to an ice house, a room or building dug into the ground that stored blocks of ice from the winter. Ice houses would provide relief from the heat until their stores of ice had melted. Some of the colonial ice houses could keep ice through the summer, into the months of September and October.

The Crape Myrtles were blooming in Colonial Williamsburg last week.

Today, Williamsburg's buildings, taverns, and hotels are air-conditioned. A trip to Williamsburg during the summer can be very comfortable and enjoyable, even during the dog days of August. I especially enjoy visiting the taverns for a colonial-style dinner at the end of the day, although the price tag can run a bit high.

Moss grows thick on a roof in Colonial Williamsburg. Humid weather combined with damp, shady locations promote the growth of the moss. Recently, I have been thinking that I need to replace my roof, but this photo makes me think that I may have some time to wait.

One of my favorite Williamsburg activities does not require air conditioning and does not have a price tag. I wake up early and go for a run or hike through Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William and Mary. The colonial area is especially beautiful in the morning, without the crowds and tourists. The early morning weather is usually pleasant, sometimes cool, and the surroundings are often very quiet and still. Occasionally, there is an interesting scene. This year, I saw a man in colonial attire riding his mountain bike down Duke of Gloucester Street, presumably to work in one of the colonial attractions in town.

I always enjoy taking a Williamsburg ghost tour. This is a photo taken at the Palace Green during a ghost tour Thursday evening. Spooky!

The Griffon is the favorite roller coaster for me and my two kids at Busch Gardens. It has a 205-foot, 90-degree drop, reaching a speed of 71 mph.

The Loch Ness Monster was my favorite roller coaster as a kid. It opened in 1978 at Busch Gardens and, for a few years, was the world's tallest and fastest coaster. It has a 114-foot, 55-degree drop, reaching a speed of 60 mph. It is also the only operating roller coaster to have interlocking loops.

By Kevin Ambrose  | August 25, 2009; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  Photography  
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Next: PM Update: Warm Today, Hot Tomorrow


Interesting post, Kevin. You partially answered a question I posed in my post last week: How did people in this area survive the summer's heat and humidity before A/C? I hadn't heard of ice houses before. I'm sure they were practical for houses that had property, but not within the city. They'd be very overcrowded these days!

Posted by: Ann-CapitalWeatherGang | August 25, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Nice pics Kevin. Looked like an uncomfortable day humidity wise.

Posted by: Ian-CapitalWeatherGang | August 25, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Colonial Williamsburg hot and humid in the summer? Ha.

Try wearing a wool coat.

Ann, another way they survived was with different construction styles. Kitchens and other fire/hot areas were not attached to the main houses, and all buildings were constructed for air flow and to maximize cross breezes. Natural A/C @ it's best!

I long for the days when I could post this anonymously as Henry Bowcock

Posted by: JJones-CapitalWeatherGang | August 25, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

No A/C, wool coats, and no running water for showers. I think I'd rather stay in England. However, some of the colonial winters were quite snowy in Virginia.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | August 25, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Why worry about colonial times? When I was at William & Mary as an undergrad -- this is 1993-97 by the way -- there was no A/C in my dorm. Imagine moving in this week to an un-air-conditioned dorm room in steamy, swampy, humid, hot Williamsburg. Ahh, the olden times!

Posted by: wrytous | August 26, 2009 6:54 AM | Report abuse

wrytous: We did not have A/C in the UVA dorms, but at least Charlottesville has a bit of elevation compared to Williamsburg.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | August 26, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

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