Record-breaking US heat wave scorches the Midwest and Northeast, bringing safety measures

A boy cools off at a fountain during hot weather in Chicago, Sunday, June 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)(AP/Nam Y. Huh)

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Stifling heat blanketed tens of millions across United States on Tuesday, forcing people and even zoo animals to find ways to cool down as summer arrives in what promises to be a sweltering week.

Extreme heat alerts stretched from Iowa to Ohio and even into the upper reaches of Michigan on Tuesday, canceling youth sports camps, nature walks and festivals across the region. The National Weather Service said the dangerous heat wave was expected to make its way across the country and into Maine until at least Friday.

An organization that provides produce to areas with limited access to fresh foods in Columbus, Ohio, prepared frozen towels for their workers in case of overheating and packed cold water to stay hydrated.

“Hydration is the key,” said Monique McCoy, market manager for the Local Matters Veggie Van.

In Toledo, Ohio, the city canceled a weekly fitness event and a neighboring suburb called off a street fair as temperatures reached the mid-90s. A food bank in upstate New York canceled deliveries for Wednesday out of concern for its staff and volunteers.

Schools in New York canceled field trips Tuesday to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, where workers turned on water misters for visitors and the animals. Elephants and other animals were getting chunks of ice in their pools, said Ted Fox, the zoo’s executive director.

“Most of the species love them,” Fox said. “Even the tigers love to lick the ice and put their heads on them when it’s this warm.”

Cities that opened cooling centers this week advised that some public libraries, senior centers and pools where residents could beat the heat will be closed Wednesday because of the Juneteenth holiday.

The blast of extreme temperatures before the official start of summer came a little too early for many.

“This is hot for just moving in to summer, so I’m hoping that we’re going to see the downward trend in the temperature here soon because this is a warm one,” said Krista Voltolini, who was selling produce at a farmer’s market in Columbus.

A recent study found that climate change is making heat waves move more slowly and affect more people for a longer time. Last year, the U.S. saw the most heat waves — abnormally hot weather lasting more than two days — since 1936.

Chicago broke a 1957 temperature record Monday with a high of 97 degrees Fahrenheit (36.1 degrees Celsius). Hot and muggy conditions will continue this week with peak heat indexes near 100 F (37.7 C) at times, the National Weather Service in Chicago said in a post on the social platform X.

Much of the Midwest and Northeast were under heat warnings or watches, with officials urging people to limit outdoor activities when possible and to check in with family members and neighbors who may be vulnerable to the heat.

In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul activated the National Guard to assist in any heat emergencies that develop over the next several days. She also said admission and parking fees at state parks, pools and beaches would be waived on Wednesday and Thursday.

“This is a time of significant risk, and we’re doing our best to make sure that all lives are protected,” Hochul said Tuesday.

In Massachusetts, the 911 system was disrupted for nearly two hours Tuesday afternoon as the heat and humidity made it feel over 95 degrees in places. The state’s Executive Office of Public Safety and Security said in a post on X that the cause of the outage is under investigation.

In California, wildfires erupted east of San Francisco in the state’s historic Gold Country region and in the mountains of northern Los Angeles County after what had been a quiet start to fire season. Wildfires in southern New Mexico damaged 500 buildings Tuesday in a mountain village of 7,000 people that had been evacuated with little time to spare.

While much of the U.S. swelters, late-season snow was forecast for the northern Rockies, with parts of Montana and north-central Idaho under a winter storm warning into Tuesday. As much as 20 inches (51 centimeters) was predicted for higher elevations around Glacier National Park.

Meanwhile, a fresh batch of tropical moisture was bringing an increasing threat of heavy rain and flash flooding to the central Gulf Coast. Hurricane season this year is forecast to be among the most active in recent memory.


Orsagos reported from Columbus. Michael Hill in Albany, New York, contributed.


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