A spell of sweltering heat has gripped the nation bringing on hundreds of heat advisories and excessive-heat warnings as temperatures soar to 100 degrees and higher.
The triple-digit temperatures are spilling over into much of the eastern half and southern regions of the United States causing sidewalks and streets to buckle, lakes covered in algae, and heat-related deaths.
Forecasters say they expect the scorching weather to continue until at least the end of July.
Andy Mussoline, meteorologist for AccuWeather, said the scorching heat is breaking records and expanding into more populated areas.
“Stories of heat exhaustion and heat-related deaths will likely become more common,” he said.
In Illinois, authorities say a 51-year-old man succumbed to a heat stroke in his mobile home this week. Local police said the man did not have a working air conditioner.
Nearly 700 people die every year from exposure to extreme heat, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Excessive heat warnings and heat advisories are in effect in parts of Texas and Oklahoma eastward across the Plains and Mississippi Valley into the Gulf Coast states, southeastern United States, and Mid-Atlantic, according to the National Weather Service today.
Air quality alerts are also in effect across the eastern U.S., including in parts of New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia
“Many of these areas have been sizzling since the weekend,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Bill Deger.
“Wichita broke a record high by reaching 111 degrees on Sunday, with several other communities throughout the Plains topping out between 105 and 110 degrees.”
Deger said one thing consistently observed with this heat wave so far is that temperatures can go unpredictably higher and exceed forecasters' expectations.
“Because of this, it's not out of the question that the 100-degree area forecast today could be larger in actuality,” he said.
National Weather Service spokesman Chris Vaccaro said the humidity can cause temperatures in the 90s to feel as hot as 115 degrees.
“Along with the searing heat, there is an uptick in humidity that will make outdoor conditions downright dangerous, especially for those with health issues,” according to forecasters with the National Weather Service.
Humidity levels and the strength of the sun's rays are easily exceeding 100 degrees in a large part of the Mississippi Valley and in the East again today.
“The oppressive heat and humidity is thanks in part to a large area of high pressure sitting over the middle part of the Mississippi Valley,” Deger said.
Areas as far north as Richmond, Va., and Washington, D.C., could approach 100 degrees this week with temperatures exceeding that number across a wider area. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have had high heat for weeks.
Health officials say that shade, water and air conditioning will offer some relief from sizzling days and nights.
Unfortunately, many of the nation’s public pools are closed due to city budget issues and now, blue-green algae and bacteria are growing in the stagnant water.
"The area pools are not crowded because the water is so warm, jumping into it is like jumping into bath water," said Damon Lane, meteorologist at ABC News affiliate KOCO in Oklahoma City.
The extreme heat has also forced the closure of multiple lakes throughout the region, according to media reports in the area.
Officials say blue-green algae can be toxic, causing skin irritations and even damage to the liver and central nervous system.
As temperatures continue to rise and inch toward 110 degrees in some areas, fire officials say it’s important not to even attempt to light a fire.
Emergency officials say these heat, conditions outside are extremely dry and any type of outside fire will spark quickly.
"If using an outside cooking device such as a barbecue, make sure someone is with the device at all times while it is cooking. It should be at least ten feet from any type of building while in use. Do not discard smoking material on to the ground, especially from a vehicle. Cigarette butts have started numerous grass or brush fires during extreme heat," fire officials said.
Local hospital officials say while heat-related deaths and illness are preventable, many succumb to extreme heat when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating isn’t enough.
Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs, medical officials said.
Staying cool and making simple changes in fluid intake, activities and clothing during hot weather can help those most susceptible to heat, which include children, the elderly and those with health issues.
Things to know during scorching temperatures:
- Health officials say you should use common sense when working outdoors in dangerous temperatures.
- Signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, cold or clammy skin, muscle cramps, headache and tiredness. People showing these symptoms should be immediately taken to a cool place and should take sips of cool water.
- Symptoms of a heat stroke are reddish skin, body temperature of 103 degrees or higher, strong rapid pulse, throbbing headache or dizziness, confusion or unconsciousness and nausea.
- Heat-related victims usually fall in the categories of infants, young children, young athletes, obese persons, those older than 65 years of age, and those persons with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or a mental illness are at highest risk for heat related illness. Family, friends, and neighbors who are at high risk will need extra help and residents should consider how they can help someone they know get to an air-conditioned place, if needed.
Heat-related Illness (A silent killer):
- Heat-related illness is always of concern during hot weather, and may be characterized as heat stress, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- Heat stress includes faintness, painful muscle spasms and cramps and prickly heat caused by a skin rash from clogged pores. Heat stress is caused by loss of fluids and minerals in the body needed for proper muscle function.
- Heat exhaustion, which is more serious, includes headache, dizziness, clammy skin, muscle fatigue, chest pain, breathing problems and nausea. Medical attention is necessary if these conditions persist.
- Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that should be considered an emergency. Headache, hot and dry skin, temperature of 103 degrees or higher, rapid and shallow breathing, disorientation and changes in consciousness are all symptoms of heat stroke. The person should be cooled quickly with cold, wet sheets or a cool bath and taken to the nearest hospital.