Video: Extreme heat claims more lives

  1. Transcript of: Extreme heat claims more lives

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Problem for much of the country tonight continues to be extreme heat. A deadly heat wave now in its second month with excessive heat warnings in effect across the country tonight and 18 states hitting temperatures above 100 degrees today alone. NBC 's Lee Cowan is in blisteringly hot Phoenix , Arizona , tonight, with more.

    LEE COWAN reporting: Phoenix knows hot. But with a predicted high of 115 today, even the desert loving ostriches at the zoo had to be hosed down.

    Unidentified Woman #1: I've lived here my whole life and it's just -- and even for me it just gets hotter and hotter every summer.

    COWAN: Arizona joins at least 17 other states today that topped the century mark. Twelve are under an excessive heat warning tonight, all putting a drain on power grids burning up from overuse.

    Unidentified Man: I'm probably drinking close to 90 ounces of water a day. A lot.

    COWAN: The suffering was everywhere. In Dallas , the heat wave logged its 33rd day in a row with temperatures over 100.

    Unidentified Woman #2: It feels like the worst one so far. I've been here 15 years.

    COWAN: But misery over the mercury is more than just a physical discomfort. Here in Arizona and Texas and Oklahoma , it's just contributing to one of the worst droughts since the 1950s .

    MIKE SEIDEL reporting: Nothing can grow. Everything's dying on the vine, in the fields, and ranchers are sending their cattle to market early because they don't have enough grain and water to feed them.

    COWAN: In Georgia , it's been so hot they're holding football practice before sunup, a precaution after a player collapsed and later died. From a mother's loss to losses in the field to a simple loss of patience, the heat is taking its toll. Lee Cowan, NBC News, Phoenix.

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/3/2011 6:57:05 PM ET 2011-08-03T22:57:05

The swath of states across the southern U.S. burned hot on Wednesday: Little Rock, Ark., beat its all-time record, reaching 114 degrees. Sweltering Texas saw a third-straight day of record electricity usage. Phoenix, Ariz., also saw triple digits — and the possibility of yet another dust storm.

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Little Rock topped its earlier record, set in 1986, by two degrees.

In Texas, the power-grid operator urged residents to conserve electricity or face the prospect of rolling blackouts.

"We're concerned particularly for this week," said Kent Saathoff, vice president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. The increased demand this summer, he added, "is far beyond what we expected."

"We are expecting another record-high electricity demand tomorrow," he added, "so we are continuing our call for conservation between 3-7 p.m."

Dallas saw its 33rd day in a row of triple-digit temperatures, bringing it closer to the record of 42 days set in 1980.

In the Phoenix area, which has been in the news for several massive walls of dust that have swept through in recent months, residents were told to expect several more days of above normal heat.

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To make matters worse, that southern swath is likely to swelter under high heat and humidity through next week, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Keeney.

And there's little chance to cool down overnight, said Accuweather.com senior meteorologist Paul Walker.

Across the region nighttime lows have settled in the upper 70s and low 80s, he said, with temperatures quickly rising the next day.

"You don't get relief. You still have the sticky, warm feeling overnight," said Walker.

On Tuesday, record highs were set with Dallas hitting 110 degrees, Little Rock reaching 106 and Memphis sweating at 101, according to The Weather Channel. Record-setting temperatures were also recorded in Kansas City, Mo., according to NWS.

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In Arkansas, Justin McKeown, 25, of North Little Rock was just trying to do his job — wearing a chicken suit in the baking sun as he carries a sign advertising Arkansas Gold and Diamond Exchange, a gold, silver and jewelry buyer.

McKeown said the nicest thing that happened to him was a $7 tip from a sympathetic passerby, although someone else had reported him to the police over concerns for his health.

Overall, the job isn't as bad as it would seem, said McKeown, the father of a five-year-old boy.

"It's getting hotter out there," he said Tuesday. "But a breeze comes through this and hits my soaking, wet shirt. Not real bad."

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The National Weather Service said fewer heat related deaths have been reported during this stretch of hot weather, but the unrelenting heat has already been blamed in the deaths of several people, including several high school football players and an assistant football coach.

Across the South, high school football coaches were taking preventive measures against the heat with players practicing in shorts and helmets, taking frequent water breaks and even plunging into cool-down tubs.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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