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Hot Texas sets electricity record — for third straight day

/ Source: staff and news service reports

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.

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.

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 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.

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."

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.