Image: Kids in St. Louis
James A. Finley  /  AP
Kids enjoy the cooling waters from a fire hydrant in St. Louis, Mo., on Monday. 
updated 7/18/2006 4:21:49 PM ET 2006-07-18T20:21:49

Cheryl Kennedy had just one word to describe the stagnant, sticky, downright dense heat that blanketed the downtown business district and most of the nation.

“Insanity. Insanity!” she said.

After a long sip from her bottled water, Kennedy added, “This is not fit for human beings. Without air conditioning, I don’t think many of us could last like this for too long.”

She and millions of Americans may have no choice — the heat wave that has gripped most of the nation showed few signs of abating and may persist until the weekend in some areas.

Scores of communities Monday reported temperatures of more than 100 degrees: Redding, Calif., about 160 miles north of Sacramento, reached 110 degrees; Grand Junction in western Colorado hit 101; Russell, Kan., hit 108. At least four deaths have been blamed on the heat, and the heat is suspected in at least three others.

Parts of the Midwest got a little relief Tuesday from a cool front squeezing down from Canada. The 8 a.m. temperature in Milwaukee was 65, compared 76 at the same time Monday.

The cooler air set off storms in Wisconsin and Michigan, with utilities in the two states reporting more than 300,000 customers black out. One woman was reported killed by lightning early Tuesday in Detroit.

The Northeast could get a break starting Tuesday night, with scattered showers and thunderstorms expected for parts of the region, but the heat was likely to persist in the southern Plains until Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

Deaths in Oklahoma
The heat killed a 76-year-old Oklahoma City man in a house where the air conditioner was broken, officials said Tuesday. Three other deaths in Oklahoma were suspected to be linked to the heat.

A 60-year-old woman was found dead of lung disease and heat stress in her Philadelphia home. In Arkansas, authorities blamed the heat for at least one death but did not release any details. On Saturday, a 3-year-old boy died in South Bend, Ind., after apparently locking himself inside a car in 90-degree heat.

The heat may have caused a New York subway train to lose power, stranding commuters for about 2½ hours. About 70 people had to be evacuated. A transit spokesman said the power loss may have been caused when the “third rail” — which powers the train — buckled.

A train derailment in rural Oklahoma’s Lincoln County on Monday afternoon might have been attributable to the heat, Highway Patrol Capt. Stewart Meyer said. There were no injuries.

Outages at N.Y. subways, LaGuardia airport
One of LaGuardia Airport’s four terminals and part of a second lost power in New York when high demand caused by the heat triggered equipment problems.

Terminals of American Airlines, Delta Airlines and the Marine Terminal were without full power, said a spokesman for Consolidated Edison, which delivers power to LaGuardia, the closest major airport to Manhattan.

Con Ed had not determined on Tuesday morning when the power would be back at LaGuardia.

Feeder power cables to northwest Queens, a New York City borough where LaGuardia is located, were being repaired by workers, said Con Ed spokesman Chris Olert. “There is partial power to LaGuardia Airport. We’re working to get them back on.”

By midmorning, Delta had canceled eight flights bound for Boston or Washington, a spokesman for the airline said, adding that it was unclear when service would resume.

One of LaGuardia's four terminals and part of a second lost power on Monday when high demand caused by the heat triggered equipment problems.

Con Ed urged New York customers to conserve power.

Also, a power failure stopped Manhattan and Brooklyn subway trains at around 9:30 a.m. for about an hour. Some riders were stuck inside trains without air-conditioning while the problems were worked on.

The city’s subway system carries 4.7 million passengers on a typical weekday.

New Yorkers have been on alert during this week’s heat wave, fearing a repeat of the massive 2003 blackout. Con Ed said about 5,000 customers in northwest Queens and Westchester County north of New York City were without power on Tuesday morning.

Other states try to cope
In Illinois, state officials made more than 130 office buildings available as cooling centers. Detroit cranked up the air conditioning in 11 of its libraries and invited the public to take refuge from the heat. In Kentucky, Louisville officials offered free fans or air conditioners to those in immediate need.

The heat pushed power consumption to a record in some states, and calls also went out for electricity conservation. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered state offices to adjust thermostats and turn off nonessential lights for the rest of the week.

PJM Interconnection, which operates the electric grid for all or part of 13 states and the District of Columbia, asked people to reduce usage, especially between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

In Chicago, the stifling weather prompted organizers of the Gay Games to deliver extra water and sports drinks to athletes. Spokesman Kevin Boyer said organizers asked competitors to bring extra ice and fluids to various events. Several cities, including the District of Columbia, opened cooling centers for people.

Good news for some
For some, the heat was a bonanza. Rick Boaz, owner of Oklahoma City AC Rescue, said his air conditioning installation and repair business is busier than ever.

“We’re getting more business than we can handle — it’s just the heat,” Boaz said. “I’d hate for the heat to affect my business but the reality of it is, extreme temperatures drive my business.”

At the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, gorillas got frozen fruit treats, bears played with ice-covered fish, elephants were hosed down, and large fans, water sprinklers and kiddie pools helped other animals stay cool.

Construction worker Chuck Trautman, 54, of Pittsburgh, spends his days outdoors working with a blow torch and wearing heavy protective gear.

“When you’re burning with that torch, it makes it twice as hot,” he said. “But you’ve just got to deal with it.”

No relief for some until weekend
The heat wave showed few signs of abating and may persist until the weekend in some areas.

The Northeast could get a break starting Tuesday night, with scattered showers and thunderstorms expected for parts of the region, but the heat was likely to persist in the southern Plains until Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Broiling

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,