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Sizzling heat grips Midwest, Eastern seaboard



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The dog days of summer brought blistering heat to half the country Wednesday, with dangerous humidity levels forecast for areas already seeking recovery from extremely hot weather.

A swath of high temperatures was forecast from Texas to South Dakota, and through the Midwest into New England and the South. CNN meteorologist Brad Huffines said a strong current of warm air, brought by the Gulf Stream, was producing high levels of humidity from the Midwest to the Great Lakes.

"Hot and humid air is building, but cool air across parts of Canada is building to give some relief by tomorrow across the Northern Plains and the Great Lakes," said Huffines. "By Friday, this front begins to move to the East, moves through New England and the Northeast, giving some relief, finally, to the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic states."

Heat advisories issued Tuesday by the National Weather Service stayed in effect Wednesday from the Dakotas to New York City and South Carolina, warning residents to take precaution against the heat.

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Record temperatures were forecast Wednesday for Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Bridgeport, Connecticut, which also set records Tuesday. Utilities in the Northeast were prepared for high power demand.

"We broke our peak yesterday and we are anticipating doing that again today," said Leslie Cifelli, spokeswoman with New Jersey's Public Service Energy & Gas, which serves 3.5 million customers. The company peaked Tuesday at 9,946 megawatts.

Despite two outages Tuesday, Cifelli said the company anticipated having enough reserves to meet demand.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, New York City's ConEd had already topped Tuesday's peak of 10,519 megawatts, but it too expected few power problems.

"So far the system is performing well, but of course we have more than 4,000 people monitoring the system 24 hours a day," said ConEd spokeswoman Brenda Perez. She said the company had two outages Tuesday, at least one of them blamed on high demand.

Many cities set high temperature records Tuesday, including Havre, Montana with 107 degrees, Wells, Nevada with 102, Newark, New Jersey with 100, and Minneapolis with 98.

High temperatures Wednesday were forecast to reach 97 degrees F in Dallas, 96 in Chicago, 98 in Minneapolis, and 95 in New York. Philadelphia and Washington were both expecting temperatures of 99 degrees.

All of the temperatures, said Huffines, will feel hotter because of the heat index -- a measure of how hot it feels when the temperature is combined with relative humidity.

A heat index as high as 115 was forecast for Wisconsin, Minnesota and northern Illinois Wednesday.

"Try to stay indoors in an air-conditioned environment," said Bruce Terry, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "If you have to be outside, take precautions. Drink a lot of fluids, particularly water."

A high humidity level can be dangerous, because it reduces the body's ability to cool itself, which in turn increases the potential for injuries like heat stroke and heat exhaustion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both injuries are possible when the heat index tops 105, the CDC said.

The only reason the weather hasn't been hotter, said Terry, is because the remains of Tropical Storm Barry produced clouds and rain in parts of the South. "But where it's been sunny, in the northern tier states, it's been hot," he said.

"It's summer in America, and that means it's going to get hot," said NWS meteorologist Donald Wernly. "Heat-related deaths are the leading cause of weather fatalities in the country, and everyone must take the heat warnings seriously."






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