2012-07-12 / Local & State

Heat Wave Bakes The U.S.; 30 Die In Unrelenting Heat

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Temperatures soared to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit in several cities as Americans dipped into the water, went to the movies and rode the subway just to be in air conditioning for relief from unrelenting heat that has killed at least 30 people across half the country.

The heat Saturday sent temperatures above 100 Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) in cities including a record 105 F (40.5 C) in Washington, St. Louis (106 F, 41 C), and Indianapolis (104 F, 40 C), buckled highways and derailed a Washington-area train even as another round of summer storms threatened.

Temperatures soared in more than 20 states to 105 F (40.5 C) in Louisville, Kentucky, 101 F (38.5 C) in Philadelphia, and 95 F (35 C) in New York; besides Washington, a record of 104 F (40 C) was set in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Baltimore set a record at 102 F (39 C).

At least 30 deaths were blamed on the heat, including nine in Maryland and 10 in Chicago, mostly among the elderly. Three elderly people found dead in their houses in Ohio had heart disease, but died of high temperatures in homes lacking power because of recent outages, officials said. Heat was also cited as a factor in three deaths in Wisconsin, two in Tennessee and three in Pennsylvania.

Officials said the heat caused highways to buckle in Illinois and Wisconsin. In Maryland, investigators said heat likely caused rails to kink and led a green line train to partially derail in Prince George's County, Maryland, on Friday afternoon. No one was injured, and 55 passengers were safely evacuated.

Thousands of mid-Atlantic residents remained without power more than a week after deadly summer storms and extreme heat struck the area, including 120,000 in West Virginia and some 8,000 in the suburbs around Baltimore and Washington, D.C. In the Washington area, the utility company Pepco asked customers to conserve power, saying the heat was stressing the system.

“This is becoming a black swan of heat waves, in the sense that it's such a long heat wave, such a severe heat wave and encompassing such a large area,” said Chris Vaccaro, spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

At the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, Abraham Lewis and his wife, Dzifa Fianoo of Lorton, Virginia, brought their 8- week-old son out for a walk in the 100-degree F (38-degree C) heat.

The couple's home in northern Virginia lost power for two days last week after a severe wind storm swept through. Fianoo had to haul the family's food to a cousin's house to prevent it from spoiling, then took it home again.

In Manhattan, customers who stepped in to see “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” at an IFC movie theater were there for more than entertainment.

He said that earlier, he rode a Manhattan subway back and forth for a half an hour, with no destination in mind, “because it really keeps you cool.”

In cities around the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, people struggled to find ways to cope with the heat, but at least one such effort ended in tragedy.

In Aurora, Illinois, Gene Autry Pryor, 52, had been drinking with three adult friends near Veterans Memorial Island and jumped into the Fox River to cool off, police said. The man's friends lost sight of him after a few minutes and then spotted him floating face down and pulled him to shore. Pryor died Friday evening.

In Chicago, street magician Jeremy Pitt-Payne said he has been working throughout the three-day stretch of triple-digit temperatures, but acknowledged that he might doff the Union Jack leather vest by the end of the day, even though it's part of his British magician character along with the black top hat.

But he had a secret for beating the heat – he starts his shows at 2 p.m. “when the Trump Tower is gracious enough to block out the sun” along his stretch of sidewalk.

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