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    Scorching Heat Wave Rolls Through Midwest, Northeast

    A sprinkler can be a fun way to keep cool as the nation's steamy heat wave continues.

    Forecasters predicted temperatures of 90 or above in 47 states on Thursday as the nation heats up. Following a severe heat wave in the Southwest that threatened to beat records, residents in the Midwest and Northeast now get their turn at these blistering conditions. Compounded by high humidity, East Coast cities like New York and Philadelphia are burdened with an increase in power outages and emergency calls.

    “Every day gets a little worse,” National Weather Service employee Tony Gigi told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It gets worse on Friday. Saturday looks miserable.”

    Overnight temperature records in Pennsylvania are being challenged every night and officials are advising residents to stock up on water. Shopping malls and other public places with air conditioning are seeing increased popularity as shoppers find excuses to linger before returning to the searing sun. In nearby New York City, power outages could mean dangerous nightly temperatures, especially for those who live alone. According to NBC, older brick buildings can retain heat long after the sun goes down. The city has already reported its first heat-related death and emergency crews are overburdened with a 20 percent increase in heat-related calls. People living in urban areas are more susceptible to prolonged heat waves due to the surrounding asphalt and concrete. This phenomenon is known as the “urban heat island effect.”

    Relief is on the way in the form of cooler winds sweeping in from the north. Beginning on Thursday, forecasters expect a cold front to move down from Canada and to begin hitting the high pressure dome in the Midwest that is the cause of the high temperatures. Unfortunately, forecasters also predict severe storms to be in the works throughout the weekend. Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin will be among the first states to be hit before the front travels east to New England.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency has released the following tips for weathering extremely hot conditions:

    • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio for critical updates from the National Weather Service (NWS).
    • Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
    • Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun.
    • Stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not available.
    • Postpone outdoor games and activities.
    • Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings such as libraries, schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, and other community facilities. Circulating air can cool the body by increasing the perspiration rate of evaporation.
    • Eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
    • Drink plenty of water; even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine. Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; are on fluid-restricted diets; or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
    • Limit intake of alcoholic beverages.
    • Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
    • Protect face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
    • Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.
    • Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.
    • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
    • Check on your animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Go to a designated public shelter if your home loses power during periods of extreme heat. 

    Image from Ed Yourdon on the flickr Creative Commons

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