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Oppressive heat in the Midwest breaks records

People struggle to find relief as even nights are hot

DETROIT — St. Louis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, and several other Midwest cities have broken heat records this week. And with even low temperatures setting records, some residents have no means of relief, day or night.

The National Weather Service said Friday that the record-breaking heat that has baked the nation’s midsection for several days was beginning to move into the mid-Atlantic states and the Northeast. But excessive-heat warnings remained in place Friday for all of Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as much of Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Kentucky.

The National Weather Service said it expected heat warnings and advisories to be continued or expanded on Saturday, with the heat largely centered over Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic states.

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In Indiana, the Morse Reservoir was down nearly 4 feet from normal levels.
In Indiana, the Morse Reservoir was down nearly 4 feet from normal levels.MICHAEL CONROY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

St. Louis hit a record high of 105 on Thursday and a record low of 83 — the second day in a row the city has broken records for both temperatures. Temperatures did not fall below 82 in Chicago, 78 in Milwaukee, and 77 in Indianapolis.

“When a day starts out that warm, it doesn’t take as much time to reach high temperatures in the low 100s,” said Marcia Cronce, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

St. Louis officials have reported three heat-related deaths in recent days, and officials in the Chicago area said two people there may have died due to heat Wednesday.

A coroner in Rock County, Wis., said the death of an 83-year-old woman was definitely due to the heat. In Tennessee, authorities have opened a criminal investigation into last week’s heat deaths of two young brothers.

Many cities have tried to help by opening cooling centers and extending the hours for their public pools. In some areas, recent storms have knocked out electricity; about 137,000 people in Michigan were without power Friday as temperatures moved steadily toward the 100-degree mark.

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Lack of electricity also is likely to compound the misery for many in the storm-ravaged East as the dangerous temperatures move in.

It was hot enough to buckle roadways. The Wisconsin State Patrol said the pavement buckled on Thursday on Interstate 90 westbound near Madison and on Interstate 39 northbound near Portage, among other places.

Not even the setting of the sun brought respite as temperatures hovered around 90 degrees downtown at 10 p.m.

When the air conditioner stopped in Ashley Jackson’s Southfield, Mich., home, so too did normal conversations and nightly rest.

“Inside the house it was 91 degrees. . . . I wasn’t talking to anybody. Nobody was talking to anybody,” said Jackson, 23, who works as a short-order cook in Detroit. “We mostly slept, but it was hard to sleep because of the heat. I probably got about four hours of sleep each night.”

Some visitors made their way to Chicago’s Millennium Park to splash in the park’s kid-friendly Crown Fountain.

“It’s hotter here than it is in Arizona,” said Mary Dominis of Tempe, who brought her daughter along to play in the water. “I came here to visit my family and to get away from the heat of Arizona.”

Ruben Davila, 32, of Northern California, was also in Chicago visiting family and at the park seeking some cool relief.

“The heat has made it difficult to walk around and view the sites,” said Davila, who was accompanied by his wife and three children.

With the National Weather Service’s heat warning for the city lasting until Saturday afternoon, Jean-Claude Brizard, head of the Chicago public schools, canceled all summer school classes Friday.

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The heat has also taken a toll on agriculture and livestock.

Dean Hines, owner of Hines Ranch Inc. in the western Wisconsin town of Ellsworth, said he found one of his 80 dairy cows dead Thursday, an apparent victim of the heat. He said he was worried about the rest of his herd in terms of death toll, reproductive consequences, and milk production.

“We’re using fans and misters to keep them cool,” he said. “It’s been terrible.”

Elsewhere in the country, communities were coping with the severe thunderstorms. At least two people were killed in Tennessee as a violent storm struck the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Park spokeswoman Melissa Cobern said a man on a motorcycle was killed as was a 41-year-old woman who was struck by a falling tree.