Heat wave scorching eastern states with little relief from sweltering temps

Updated

There was no letup from the sweltering heat wave frazzling much of the eastern United States on Friday, with some 90 million Americans under heat alerts nationwide.

Record-setting temperatures have already baked much of New England and parts of the Midwest, with little hope of relief into the weekend. Heat indexes — which factor in temperature and humidity — hit between 100 and 110 degrees in some places Thursday.

Parts of the Northeast were set to get some respite Friday, with highs in the 70s and 80s, according to the National Weather Service. But the temperature is forecast to rise in the mid-Atlantic, through the mid 90s Friday and perhaps into the 100s Saturday, with 64 million people still under heat alerts in the region and “record-tying or breaking temperatures possible,” the forecaster said.

Across the Ohio Valley, the NWS “Heat Risk” index was at level 4 — labeled “extreme,” the highest available — for the next two days.

“This rare and/or long-duration extreme heat with little to no overnight relief affects anyone without effective cooling and/or adequate hydration,” it said, adding that it was likely to impact “most health systems, heat-sensitive industries and infrastructure.”

Northeastern US To Swelter In First Heat Wave Of The Season (Adam Gray / Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Northeastern US To Swelter In First Heat Wave Of The Season (Adam Gray / Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Deadly heat that has blanketed the US, Mexico and Central America recently was made 35 times more likely due to global warming. (Yuki Iwamura / AFP - Getty Images)
Deadly heat that has blanketed the US, Mexico and Central America recently was made 35 times more likely due to global warming. (Yuki Iwamura / AFP - Getty Images)

In another update Thursday, the forecaster advised people to “drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sun, and check up on relatives and neighbors.”

Elsewhere, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 51 Texas counties after the first named storm of the hurricane season, Alberto, made landfall in Mexico bringing heavy rain.

On the West Coast, some 26 million people were under heat alerts in California. And in New Mexico a pair of wildfires have forced thousands of people to evacuate, destroyed 1,400 structures and led to the deaths of at least two people.

What makes this heatwave so punishing, meteorologists say, is that nighttime lows are also stubbornly high, giving the body little time to recover from the day’s punishing conditions.

The northeast in particular isn’t used to temperatures this hot at this time of year — with several calendar-day highs broken across Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania — and the NWS warned that people without reliable air conditioning would wilt.

Northeastern US To Swelter In First Heat Wave Of The Season (Adam Gray / Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Northeastern US To Swelter In First Heat Wave Of The Season (Adam Gray / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Commuters in the Thursday evening rush hour in and out of New York Penn Station were left sweating on trains with no AC after a malfunctioning circuit breaker caused a power outage, compounded by a brush fire in Secaucus, New Jersey, WNBC reported.

Amtrak warned that the high temperatures meant its trains would have to run at slower speeds throughout the week, predicting delays of up to an hour.

The immediate cause of this heat wave is the jet stream meandering northward and creating what’s called a “heat dome” over the eastern U.S.

But Americans are far from the only ones suffering in such conditions — with a monthslong heat wave in India killing more than 100 people and hundreds dying during the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca amid scorching heat there.

Climate scientists say rising temperatures and extreme weather are no surprise — all made more likely and more frequent by the continued burning of fossil fuels.

On Thursday, World Weather Attribution, a group of scientists specializing in rapid studies on the climate, released a report saying that a previous heat wave that hit the southern U.S., Mexico and Central America in late May and early June was made 35 times more likely by human-created climate change, and 2.5 degrees hotter.

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