Video: The heat is on

NBC, and news services
updated 7/12/2011 6:59:29 PM ET 2011-07-12T22:59:29

Stifling heat gripped half of the continental United States on Tuesday with record high temperatures set in some parts of the Northeast.

Some 124 million Americans in 24 states from Texas to Connecticut saw heat alerts Tuesday.

"It says a lot when you are dealing with such an expansive area of heat alerts," said National Weather Service spokesman Chris Vaccaro.

In St. Louis, Mo., digital thermometers outside banks showed 102 degrees but it felt like 115.

Owensville, Ky., topped all cities Tuesday with a heat index that made it feel like 123 degrees.

Newark, N.J., hovered around 99 degrees, Islip, N.Y., saw 93 degrees, and the mercury hit 97 degrees at John F. Kennedy airport in New York City — all record highs for July 12.

But the heat will be short-lived on the East Coast. "For the most part it's a one day heat wave," said Vaccaro.

It was a different story in other parts of the country.

In Oklahoma City, Okla., temperatures topped 100 degrees for the 14th consecutive day.

"It feels like an easy-bake oven outside," said Lara O'Leary, the spokeswoman for Emergency Medical Services Authority, Oklahoma's largest ambulance service.

Keeping cool? Show us how

O'Leary said her agency responded to 110 heat related emergencies since the first heat alert was issued on June 17th.

"Even the heartiest of Oklahoman's is having trouble handling the heat," said O'Leary. She admitted experiencing heat exhaustion while playing with her 8-year-old son outside on Monday. "I felt a little dizzy and I went inside and cooled down," she said.

Image: Heat index map
The heat index at 4.45 p.m. ET Tuesday showed many areas feeling the effects of high temperatures and humidity.

Cooler weather on the horizon
Kevin Roth, lead meteorologist at The Weather Channel, said "the very hot temperatures" combined with "oppressive humidity" could result in heat indices of 100 to 120 degrees Tuesday afternoon in some regions.

However, Roth added there would be some relief in the Northeast later in the day, with a cold front expected to move into northern New York and northern New England, and then head south through the region into Wednesday.

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"Much cooler temperatures move in behind the front tonight and Wednesday in northern areas and Wednesday night and Thursday in southern areas," he said.

Some thunderstorms were possible in northern New York and Northern New England Tuesday afternoon, Roth said. Some of those could be "severe, producing damaging wind gusts and hail."

Story: 852,000 lose power in Chicago-area storms

Temperatures rise, records fall
The heat wave first picked up over the weekend.

Hutchinson, Kan., reached 103 on Monday after hitting a scorching 112 on Sunday. Records haven't been kept there long enough to tell if it was a new high for the date.

A farm near Wichita, Kan., was using big fans and fog nozzles to protect its turkeys after 4,300 perished in the heat Sunday.

Oklahoma City has hit 100 degrees or higher — 110 on Saturday — every day since June 29, including Monday, making it 13 in a row. The record there is 22 consecutive days of 100 degree-plus weather, set in 1936.

Story: Drought in 14 states means disaster for many

The heat wave broke records in places such as Joplin, Mo., where a May 22 tornado destroyed about 30 percent of the city.

The temperature reached 106 degrees there on Sunday, a record for that date and the hottest for any day in Joplin in 25 years. It topped out at 99 on Monday.

"It's just one more thing for people to deal with," said Patricia Robinson, a volunteer at the Joplin Red Cross.

The Red Cross building would normally be used as a public cooling center but staff members are still busy helping tornado victims, Robinson said.

Dallas recorded its 10th-straight day of 100-degree weather Monday. The city hit 100 for nearly three straight weeks as recently as 2006, and the National Weather Service issued a heat advisory Monday afternoon for the Dallas-Fort Worth area for the first time since June 18. The advisory will remain in effect until Wednesday night.

PhotoBlog: View, discuss weather photos

In 1980, the Dallas-Fort Worth area endured 42 days in a row of 100-degree-and-over heat.

Little chance of rain
Triple-digit highs are expected through the weekend in Dallas, and there is little chance of rain to cool things down.

"It's breaking daily records, but when you're talking about a record string of days — we're not there yet," Vaccaro said. "We're in the midst of a heat wave that's not over yet."

On Monday, 87-year-old R.F. Lanham was taking the heat in stride as he picked weeds in his shaded front yard in Dallas. "I've seen a lot of hot summers," he said.

As 40-year-old Sally Smith loaded two of her children into her minivan as she left a spin class at a Dallas YMCA, she said that even though she had lived in Texas for 18 years, the hot weather was hard to get used to.

"You feel like your skin is baking," the Michigan native said.

In Fort Worth, all of the city's pools are closed because of budget cuts. Through a partnership with the YMCA, Fort Worth residents can swim at four of its pools for two hours a day without a membership.

Authorities said a 51-year-old man suffered heat stroke and died Sunday because his mobile home in Granite City, Ill., had no working air conditioner. His body temperature was 104 when he arrived at the hospital.

In Texas, days of triple-digit temperatures are reportedly being blamed for the death of 56-year-old Angela Rogers. According to the Times Record News, Rogers' husband reported her missing about three-and-a-half hours after she'd left on a four-wheeler.

Officials found Rogers' body about a half-mile from her crashed vehicle. Authorities believe the woman died of dehydration after crashing and becoming disoriented.

In Tahlequah, Okla., 56-year-old David Vaughan, who works construction at water treatment plants, said he was using survival skills he learned while working in Kuwait.

"In Kuwait, we had a saying: Walk slow and drink a lot of water," he said.

In El Paso, Texas, 67-year-old Jesus Franco was the grateful recipient of a fan from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Franco, who is blind, said that he had a small air conditioning unit installed in his home last week, but even then, "at night it gets so hot you can't sleep."

As the stream of air cooled his shirtless torso Monday, he said, "This is much nicer."

Felix Cabrera, an employee of the agency giving out the fans, said that "with so many people unemployed and the population getting older, we are getting more calls."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Interactive: Heat wave

  1. Above: Interactive Heat wave
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