Nightly News   |  July 06, 2012

Heat wave’s deadly toll

In the hot zone emergency room visits are on the rise as the number of heat-related deaths rose, especially among the sick and elderly. NBC’s John Yang reports.

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>>> 13. the record-setting heat is the other big story tonight. moving east now but not before baking the midwest again today. and we're learning now just how deadly the heat has been. nbc's john yang joins usa g again tonight from chicago where the temperature hit 100 for the third day in a row. john?

>> reporter: good evening, kate. this record, this heat wave is not only setting records. it has turned deadly. here in chicago six confirmed heat related deaths across the nation a total of 43 deaths in nine states blamed on the heat.

>> free water . free water .

>> reporter: on chicago's south side volunteers handed out bottles of water -- simple tools to combat the life-threatening heat.

>> like getting a bottle of gold.

>> reporter: as temperatures hit record highs from alabama to michigan the number of heat-related deaths rose, too, especially among the sick and elderly. there have been at least nine deaths in maryland where carlton davis hasn't had electricity since powerful storms seven days ago. at night it only drops to the 80s but he keeps his windows shut for security.

>> oxygen wasn't getting to my brain. i'm okay now.

>> reporter: in the hot zone emergency room visits are on the rise.

>> the added stress causes swelling, weakness, a lot of stress on the heart and lungs.

>> reporter: to prevent problems, cities have extended hours for swimming pools and opened cooling centers for senior citizens .

>> by today if you haven't had air conditioning your body temperature could be 103, 104, and that's when the organs start to shut down.

>> reporter: home meal delivery drivers find themselves providing an additional life line .

>> i'm going to make sure they're hydrated, make sure they're eating so they can keep their strength and make sure their houses are livable conditions in this weather.

>> reporter: forecasting changes in the air this weekend as the hot air mass parked over the midwest moves east.

>> that is going to mean some relief for those in chicago and st. louis but along the east coast it's actually only going to get worse as we head into the weekend.

>> reporter: but without soaking rain there is not much relief for the nation's farmers. the government says 56% of the country is in drought.

>> no change in weather but --

>> reporter: orion daniels host of the syndicated national farm report.

>> we had a good start to the crop and then in a matter of three weeks this crop has just gone south.

>> reporter: that'll affect not just the price of corn but the price of things like beef and soft drinks an effect we're likely to feel long after the summer is over. kate?

>> john yang out in the heat again tonight for us. thank you, john.