Nightly News   |  July 21, 2011

Deadly heat wave continues

At least 148 million people are under a heat advisory or warning in a heat wave that has already claimed 22 lives. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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>>> good evening, here's just one way of looking at how cruel and how relentless this oppress oppressive heat wave has been so far. over 3,000 separate records have been set in different places for the highest overnight temperature. extremely hot daytime temperatures in july are one thing, but it gets dangerous when no one can catch a break, like in chicago at 3:00 a.m . when it's 90 degrees outside as it was overnight. government forecasters have issued heat warnings for some extensive stretches of our country. this dome of hot air has pushed temperatures very high, and then there's that heat index , what the heat actually feels like when you're out in it. nbc's ann thompson is out in it here tonight in hot times square in new york. hey, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. more than 148 million americans are under a heat advisory or warning tonight. this is not just an inconvenience. this is deadly. the heat wave already claiming more than 20 lives, and here in new york city the hottest days are ahead. the eastern seaboard is a griddle. the temperatures reach the mid-90s, but the humidity made it feel well over 100 degrees.

>> we feel nasty which is sweaty and nasty.

>> reporter: up and down the northeast corridor , officials urge people to conserve energy, limiting their physical activity and electricity usage.

>> extreme heat is a real danger. it takes a toll on people's health, and it can put a strain on our infrastructure.

>> reporter: a problem here and in the midwest.

>> i'm kevin tibbles in chicago on a sizzling day five with no in sight. with the heat index , it's 110 degrees. some 7,000 homes and businesses are without power because of the heat. sweating it out without ac, and today ac is golden.

>> reporter: the nation's largest independent grid operator, pjm, manages electricity across some 13 states in the midwest and mid-atlantic. today, demand climbed to 158,000 megawatts an hour, approaching a new record. with air conditioners blasting come worries of a repeat of the 2003 blackout. in new york city utility officials tried to calm fears.

>> we could handle five days in a row of 100 degrees.

>> reporter: one of the nation's most miserable spots, washington, d.c., says the weather channel 's chris warren .

>> when the sun goes down, not much helps. still, around 90 degrees at midnight expected tonight, and for morning lows starting the day in the mid-80s.

>> reporter: for those who had to work outside, caution was key. coaches at the practice for maine's all-star high school football game put in a special game plan .

>> we have a ten-five rule, work for ten minutes and five minutes for water and the shade.

>> reporter: air quality alerts followed the soaring temperatures. almost 60 areas in the eastern half of the country warned. from maine's acadia national park , west to chicago , to raleigh-durham in the south.

>> our bigger concern is that it's going to last several days and that may put us at risk over the next couple of day snoz adding to the misery a warning tonight for swimmers and kayakers here in new york city to stay out of the water because of a raw sewage spill in the hudson river . brian?

>> talk about insult to injury. ann thompson in times square tonight to start us off.