Image: Elderly woman with new fan in her home
Sue Ogrocki  /  AP
Barbara Nusz in Noble, Okla., enjoys her new fan, courtesty of Aging Services of Cleveland County, on Wednesday. Broiling hot conditions are expected to continue in Oklahoma and much of the south, and the elderly are especially susceptible to heat related health problems.
NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 7/13/2011 4:54:57 PM ET 2011-07-13T20:54:57

The heat wave that embroiled half of the continental United States in triple digit temperatures this week still had southern areas sizzling on Wednesday but spared much of the Northeast and Midwest.

The National Weather Service issued heat advisories for 11 states on Wednesday, far fewer than the 24 on Tuesday.

"The heat wave is beginning to break down in some parts and it's not as expansive as it was yesterday," said Chris Vaccaro, spokesman for the weather service.

Counties in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Georgia received excessive heat warnings, indicating the mix of heat and humidity could cause heat illnesses.

In the South, high temperatures were mostly in the 90s to near 105, with heat indices of 95 to 115.

Due to high humidity, parts of South Carolina felt like 106 degrees on Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, the national high was in Fort Smith, Ark., which hit 108 degrees.

Oklahoma City saw a record rainfall of 2.91 inches. The storm provided some temporary cooling there, but temperatures will be hovering near 100 degrees through early next week.

Along the I-95 corridor from New Jersey to Virginia, drier, less humid air will begin to push southward, according to The Weather Channel.

The real relief will be felt Thursday and Friday, as the cold front pushes as far south as the Carolinas and Tennessee Valley, said Jonathan Erdman, senior meteorologist for The Weather Channel.

But Erdman said another major heat wave is expected to expand out of the South and into much of the nation's heartland late this week into the weekend, persisting into early next week.

That means it could feel like 105 degrees or above over a large swath of the nation this weekend from the Dakotas and Minnesota to Texas and Louisiana, Erdman said.

The current heat wave that started over the weekend has killed tens of thousands of turkeys and chickens in Kansas and North Carolina and left farmers across the lower part of the country struggling to cool off their flocks.

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In North Carolina, about 50,000 chickens died at a farm after the power went off for less than an hour. In Kansas, one couple lost 4,300 turkeys that took 26 hours to bury.

"It felt like a war zone. It felt like hell," turkey grower Holly Capron said.

Temperatures in Kansas on Sunday reached 110 degrees, with a heat index of 118. It was 106 in the buildings near Columbus where Capron and her husband raise 22,000 turkeys for Butterball LLC.

She said they've been running big fans and fog nozzles in their poultry buildings, and they've had a tractor pulling a spray wagon to water down the birds. They lost 140 birds on Saturday, but nothing prepared them for Sunday, when 4,300 died.

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After receiving approval from state regulators, the Caprons, their workers and friends began digging a massive hole — 60 feet long, 40 feet wide and 10 feet deep — to bury the nearly 50-pound birds. They started at 11 p.m. Sunday, and the last turkey was buried 26 hours later. The crew worked around the clock. No one slept.

"It was literally overwhelming during the night," Capron said. "I honestly wanted to start crying. My husband was in shock."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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