Temperatures soared toward and above 100 degrees in many Central Plains states on Wednesday, creating dangerous conditions that are expanding eastward and meteorologists expect little relief over the next couple of weeks.
Parts of Colorado and Kansas have reported temperatures at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit for several days. Chicago on Thursday is expected to reach the century mark for the first time since 2005, prompting health warnings, and triple-digit highs are expected to reach into Tennessee.
Dry conditions and high temperatures have exacerbated wildfires in Western states, and have threatened corn crops and stressed livestock in the Central Plains.
"This overall pattern looks like it is going to stick around well into July," said Alex Sosnowski, an expert senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.com.
"It looks pretty much rock solid centered on the Central Plains and Central Rockies over into the Tennessee Valley interior south," Sosnowski said. "It's anchored in there and it's really not going to change much."
Sosnowski said temperatures would spike toward 100 degrees from Chicago to Washington, D.C., and possibly New York every now and then, and areas from Colorado to the interior of the Carolinas would have little hope for temporary relief.
Temperatures will push 90 degrees most days in New York, Washington and Philadelphia the next two weeks, while Denver, Kansas City and the middle of the nation will tend to see high temperatures pushing 100 degrees, he said.
In the past week, more than 1,000 records have been broken around the county, including 251 new high daily temperature records on Tuesday alone.
If forecasts hold, more records may fall in the central and western parts of the country.
Hill City, Kan., a farming community of about 1,500 people in the northwest part of the state, has been the hottest place in the nation for several days.
On Wednesday, Hill City was expected to reach 111 degrees, which would be down from the 115-degree high on Tuesday that tied McCook, Neb., for the nation's highest temperature.
"It was extremely hot yesterday and the wind made it hard to breathe," said Conni Condo, manager of the Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce. "I have not seen too much traffic. People are staying inside or going to the pool."
In Illinois and Tennessee, residents were bracing for temperatures to reach into the triple digits on Thursday. With highs ranging from 100 to 105 degrees expected in Chicago, the weather service set a heat advisory for noon to 8 p.m. Thursday.
High temperatures are going to be 10 to 13 degrees above normal in Memphis for the next few days and records will be broken across the state, the weather service said.
The high in Memphis is expected to reach 100 degrees on Thursday and meet or exceed that level through Monday.
High temperatures in Texas are typically in the mid-90s in late June, but were about 10 degrees higher than normal across much of the state on Tuesday, said Brian Hoeth, a weather service meteorologist in Fort Worth.
Wednesday is expected to be similarly hot, he said, but by the weekend, much of the Lone Star State will get a break from the 100s with temperatures dropping to a more normal high.
Austin, Texas, set a June record high at 109 degrees on Tuesday and was expected to reach 104 degrees on Wednesday, the weather service said. San Antonio set a record high for that date at 106 degrees on Tuesday and Dallas/Fort Worth was expected to reach 105 degrees on Wednesday.
University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver says the current heat wave "is bad now by our current definition," but that this will be "far more common in the years ahead."
The dry conditions have led to numerous wildfires across Colorado, Utah and other western states, forcing thousands of people from their homes and consuming houses and timber.