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Dangerous heat for over 93 million in Midwest and South

Daily highs in the Midwest were forecast to reach up to 20 degrees above average, with many areas expected to set records.
An Austin Travis County medic assists a patient who was found passed out and dehydrated in Austin, Texas, on Aug. 8, 2023.
A medic assists a patient who was found passed out and dehydrated in Austin, Texas, on Aug. 8.Brandon Bell / Getty Images file

Chicago’s commuter rail service slowed trains, Milwaukee again closed schools, and St. Louis-area high school football games are being delayed as dangerous heat posed risks for a huge section of the country Wednesday.

More than 93 million people in 20 states were under excessive heat warnings Wednesday evening, according to the National Weather Service, and other areas were under heat advisories.

Rockford, Illinois, had a heat index of 116 degrees Fahrenheit, and the weather service for Chicago said heat indices of up to 100 to 115 degrees could be felt Thursday.

“Right now it’s pretty humid; I’m pouring sweat,” Justin Ferrell, who is visiting family and friends from Texas, which is also hot, said Thursday morning.

High heat index values mean hot and wet conditions, which make it hard for the human body to cool off by sweating, as humidity slows evaporation of sweat from the skin. At heat index values nearing 120, prolonged exposure means significant danger of heat exhaustion and even heatstroke, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Chicago’s commuter rail system, Metra, said it would impose speed restrictions because of the hot weather and increase inspections of rails in the heat.

Milwaukee Public Schools will be closed Thursday because of the heat, the district said. Schools were also closed Wednesday, and the city’s airport recorded 100 degrees that afternoon, according to the weather service.

The National Weather Service said a high-pressure dome is creating extreme heat through the Plains and the Midwest into the South.

Daily highs in the Midwest were forecast to reach up to 20 degrees above average, with temperatures into the upper 90s and the low 100s, most likely breaking numerous daily and potentially monthly records.

The heat wave is expected to continue through the end of the week, when a cold front moving south will bring relief to parts of the Midwest. The South is expected to stay hot through the weekend.

In the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley, 11 million people were at risk for severe storms Wednesday. High winds were likely, with a chance of hail and a low chance of tornadoes. The severe storm risk was forecast to continue into Thursday.

Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center is monitoring Tropical Storm Franklin, which made landfall on the Dominican Republic coast Wednesday morning.

The storm was emerging from the north coast of the Dominican Republic around 5 p.m. ET, the agency said, but it is bringing heavy rain and life-threatening flash floods.

At least one person is dead and two other people were injured in the country, The Associated Press reported, citing the civil defense. The person who died was swept away by floodwaters in San Cristóbal.

The severe storm risk in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley also extended into the Northern Plains. Wind gusts over 60 mph, lightning and precipitation were likely in cities such as Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, as well as possible hail and isolated tornadoes.

Tropical Storm Franklin is forecast to reach the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, and it is likely to strengthen into a hurricane near Bermuda over the weekend. Dangerous surf and rip currents are possible on the U.S. East Coast early next week.