Iowans were dead center in the heat wave gripping the central U.S. on Tuesday, with warnings that it will get worse before it gets cooler. And that's after 11 Iowa towns on Monday posted heat indices that made it feel between 114 and 131 degrees.
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Monday's stats were so impressive that the National Weather Service issued a list of heat index highs topped by 4 Iowa towns: Knoxville, 131 degrees; Newton, 129; Atlantic, 126; and Council Bluffs, 126. Freeport, Ill., and Madison, Minn., followed at 124.
Can it really get worse in Iowa?
"Heat indexes might be at their highest point tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday, and then it slowly starts getting less warm," National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Olsen was quoted Monday by the Iowa City Press-Citizen as saying.
Some locals refused to let the heat stop them.
"It's insanely hot today, but you can't let that keep you inside," jogger Blake Stephens told the Daily Iowan. "Before you know it, there will be snow on the ground."
Iowa was among 23 states that were under some sort of heat advisory or warning on Tuesday.
"This is completely out of whack for the Upper Midwest," said Chris Vaccaro, a Weather Service spokesman.
In Chicago, where locals usually flee to lake beaches to cool off, all but one beach was closed Tuesday due to severe fog that prevented lifeguards from protecting swimmers.
The blanket of heat was expected to expand eastward in coming days, with temperatures expected to flirt with 100 degrees in Washington, D.C., and in New York.
Along with the heat, patchy but severe thunderstorms were forecast across the upper Midwest, through the Ohio Valley and into the mid-Atlantic region. Where the storms hit, humidity could become even more stifling afterward, Vaccaro said.
Thunderstorms in Cleveland late on Monday left more than 20,000 residents without power.
In Kansas, the heat tested eight drum teams preparing for a "Drums Across America" competition in Wichita.
"We're struggling," Ian Mann of the Teal Sound Drum & Bugle Corps told The Wichita Eagle on Monday between outdoor practice sessions. The team is based in Jacksonville, Fla.
The team has been drinking lots of water several days in advance, he said. It also travels with "a medical EMT and physical trainer," said band staffer Mike Steiner, "so that when we get to this part of the country we're prepared."
Event organizers did move the competition back an hour so that teams and viewers would be a bit cooler.
According to The Weather Channel, highs of 105 degrees were possible in some areas and heat indices could make it feel like 125 degrees.
In St. Louis, Mo., police found four children and a dog left inside a car outside a supermarket on Monday. The children were treated and no arrests were made.
While in the car just five minutes, the children were exposed to danger, the city's health director said.
"One minute is too long," the St. Louis Post Dispatch quoted Pam Walker as saying. "A car can heat up to 120 degrees in five minutes."
Last week, three adults in St. Louis were charged with endangering three children found inside a parked car while the adults were at a restaurant.
The National Weather Service said as many 13 deaths in the past week in the Midwest could be blamed on the effects of the heat.
In Oklahoma City, which saw a 28th day of triple-digit heat on Monday, two lanes of a major interstate in downtown were closed after buckling on a bridge caused steel expansion joints to rise, damaging cars as they passed over.
The city is on pace to break its record for days at 100 or above — 50 set in 1980 — with triple-digit heat possible through September.
In Tulsa, a hole opened in the pavement of a highway bridge and a section of U.S. 75 in a nearby town buckled.
It's even worse in western Oklahoma, where temperatures at 110 or above have been common in recent weeks. In Enid, asphalt at a major intersection along U.S. Highway 412 buckled Saturday night from the intense heat.
Last week, a buckled road near Enid caused a motorcyclist to go airborne and then tumble for hundreds of feet. The driver, who was wearing kevlar-laced gear, was airlifted to a hospital where he was being treated for injuries that included broken bones and an injured back.
Oklahoma poultry producers have deployed fans and some even hose down rooftops to try to lower temperatures, John Ward, executive vice president of the state Poultry Federation told msnbc.com.
"We haven't lost a lot of birds," at least so far, he said, adding that "we probably lost more chickens to snow storms" that caved in roofs in recent winters.
The U.S. Humane Society worries that even brief power outages can kill thousands of chickens, as was the case in North Carolina last week.
"The vast majority of farm animals are confined indoors at all times, meaning if there's a power outage, you can have tens of thousands of animals in one building dead within an hour, said Paul Shapiro, who tracks farm animal conditions for the activist group.
"The problem is inherent to large operations," he added. Steps like shaded, outdoor access "can help avert" heat deaths, he said.
'Most significant' heat wave in 5 years likely
The heat wave is slowly moving east, with high humidity adding to the misery.
"This will likely be the most significant heat wave the region has experienced in at least the last five years," the National Weather Service said Monday.
According to WNBC, scorching temperatures near 100 degrees are expected in the New York area on Friday.
At the other end of the U.S., the Seattle area has had what a local TV station is calling "the 78-minute summer." KOMO TV reported Monday that that's the amount of time it has been 80 degrees or warmer so far this summer.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.