Worst heatwave in years grips Midwest, moving east

An oppressive and potentially deadly summertime mix of sizzling temperatures and high humidity baked a large swath of the country again on Sunday, pushing afternoon heat indexes in dozens of cities to dangerous levels.

Forecasters warned the heatwave would persist through much of the coming week and cautioned residents in more than three dozen states to take extra precautions.

The National Weather Service posted excessive heat warnings for much of the country's midsection, including Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, as well as South and North Dakota, where forecasters predicted heat indexes could hit 115 degrees.

"This will likely be the most significant heat wave the region has experienced in at least the last five years," the weather service said.

It is not unusual for temperatures this time of year to rise to or above 90 degrees in 23 of the 48 contiguous United States.

However, the magnitude of the heat wave is clearly evident with more than 40 states set to record a 90-degree temperature reading or greater on at least one day of this week.

Monday is when the United States may see the greatest coverage of 90-degree temperatures as the dome of heat stretches from the Northwest's interior to the mid-Atlantic and southern New England.

The worst of the heat wave through at least Wednesday will focus on the nation's midsection.

Cities especially hard hit by the heat included Rapid City, South Dakota, Springfield, Illinois, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Bill Deger adds that several record highs are in jeopardy.

Kristina Pydynowski, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather, predicted the heatwave will affect more than 40 states.
All the states will see temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, she said, and "a large number of them will bake above 100 degrees for days on end."
High humidity from the eastern Plains eastward will worsen the situation by causing AccuWeather.com RealFeel® temperatures to soar between 105 and 110 degrees.

RealFeels® will even reach the 115-degree mark in some cases, such as in Omaha, Neb., and Kansas City, Mo.

The National Weather Service notes that typically extreme heat is the biggest weather-related killer in the United States, taking about 115 lives each year. That's why it and other government agencies urge people to minimize their time outdoors in periods of extreme heat, drink plenty of fluids, and keep especially close tabs on the elderly and young people.

In Missouri, for one, scores of cooling centers have been established in libraries, senior centers, schools and other sites around the state to help deal with continuously high temperatures.

While the heat wave is currently focused on the High Plains and Mississippi Valley, it is expected to press east by the middle of the week, the weather service said.

In Chicago, where high heat and humidity warnings were twinned with an alert for poor air quality, temperatures were expected to hit 95 degrees in the afternoon, creating heat indexes as high as 105.

In Minnesota, the heat wave was expected to continue through Wednesday with possible thunderstorms in some parts. Highs in the Twin Cities area could reach 94 degrees on Sunday, and 97 degrees from Monday through Wednesday.

The weather service is projecting possibly six consecutive days of temperatures at 90 degrees or higher in the Twin Cities, the longest
stretch to far this year, but short of records, meteorologist Jim Richardson said.

"Basically, today through Wednesday looks to be the warmest regime and humidity levels up there as well," Richardson said.

By mid week many locations on the east coast will have heat index values approaching or exceeding 100 degrees, including Washington D.C., the weather service said.

cool dogIn St. Louis, temperatures are expected to reach 96 degrees on Sunday, 98 on Monday and touch the 100 degree mark on Tuesday. The heat index values are expected to range from 105 to 115 degrees. (Right: so hot even a dog has to find a way to cool off)

In the Kansas City area, heat index values are expected to range from 105 to 110 degrees on Sunday and then average about 110 degrees through Friday with oppressive heat and humidity.

CNN reports on excessive heat


Source:
Reuters,"Worst heatwave in years grips Midwest, moving east", By James B. Kelleher, accessed July 18, 2011
CNN, "With no end in sight, record heat to move east", accessed July 18, 2011
Accuweather, "Heat This Week: 90s or Higher in Over 40 States", by Kristina Pydynowski, accessed July 18, 2011

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