About two dozen cattle died in Nebraska, more than 100 nursing home residents were evacuated in Missouri, and an ice cream shop in Iowa was forced to close as temperatures rose to record levels in more than 20 states.
Extreme heat warnings, the most severe form of heat warning, extended more than 1,100 miles on Wednesday, from the Gulf Coast north into central Minnesota. Twenty-two states were under some type of heat warning Wednesday afternoon.
Temperatures will rise more than 20 degrees above normal in late August through the end of the week across the Plains, Midwest and South. Even locations adapted to scorching summer heat will face harsh conditions.
By Friday, more than 65 million people will have experienced temperatures above 100 degrees.
This latest heatwave is exceptional even in this record-breaking summer. It is fed by a heat dome, a powerful area of high pressure that traps and condenses hot air at the surface, which has been measured at record levels in multiple states.
Dangerous heat forced 117 people to evacuate from a Kansas City nursing home Tuesday after the air conditioning there broke down, the Kansas City Fire Department said. The heat index reached 119 degrees. Seven residents tested positive for Covid-19 and were taken to hospital, KCFD Battalion Chief Michael Hopkins said.
The rest were transferred to nine other local facilities, Hopkins said.
The heat has also proven to be unviable for some animals. Twenty-two head of cattle died in extreme temperatures Tuesday at a University of Nebraska-Lincoln farm, according to Eric Hunt, an agricultural climatologist at the University of Nebraska Extension.
In Des Moines, Iowa, the Black Cat Ice Cream store closed its doors until Thursday, with the owners writing in a Facebook post that “the extreme heat is too much for the 100-plus-year-old building to keep up with.”
And the temperatures will not subside: hundreds of record temperatures could be recorded in the coming days, with parts of the central and southern United States approaching temperatures that have never been recorded before.
Scroll down for a daily look at the temperature forecast.
The worst of Wednesday’s heat wave is centered along the Mississippi River Valley and affecting states as far north as Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois.
Multiple Midwestern cities including Chicago, Indianapolis and Springfield, Illinois, could reach triple digits on Wednesday for the first time in more than a decade.
The heat index already exceeded 100 degrees early Tuesday afternoon as far north as Minneapolis and Green Bay, Wisconsin. These cities typically see temperatures in the 70s in late August. Chicago’s heat index rose to 116 degrees early Tuesday afternoon, just shy of the city’s all-time record of 118 degrees on July 14, 1995.
At the southern end of the heat dome, New Orleans on Wednesday will reach or exceed the hottest temperature ever recorded — 102 degrees. The city will add to just 12 record days of temperatures at 100 degrees or higher this year, more than any other year on record.
Parts of the Midwest and Plains will begin to see a slight relief on Thursday as the worst temperatures begin to shift south and east. Scorching heat will remain dominant across the South and much of the Mississippi River Valley, but will extend eastward to include the Ohio Valley and more of the Southeast.
Record high temperatures could drop from Iowa to Indiana and south to the Gulf Coast on Thursday.
The heat index in parts of Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia could rise to the triple digits on Thursday after being spared the worst temperatures for several days this week.
Friday looks set to be another brutal day for the southern United States, with dozens of records at risk from Texas to the Carolinas.
Georgia and parts of the Carolinas will see heat index values over 100 degrees, while parts of Louisiana continue to deal with values in the 110s.
While Louisiana typically braces for hurricanes and tropical storms at this time of year, the state now faces threats of wildfires and burn bans amid extreme heat. Heat records were broken in several parts of the state, including New Orleans and Baton Rouge National Weather Service He said Wednesday.
Earlier in the week, there were nearly 350 fires burning across the state, according to Mike Steele, communications director for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP).
A massive wildfire in Beauregard Parish has burned through more than 10,000 acres as of Wednesday afternoon, GOHSEP Director Casey Tingle said at a news conference.
“We are dealing with a different type of weather condition that requires everyone to be aware of the burn ban and do their part to reduce the possibility of anything that could start a fire,” Tingle said.
The weather offers no relief in sight for the state, with the forecast calling for dry and hot conditions, Tingle said, adding: “We urgently need everyone’s help in adhering” to the burn ban.
There is a large area of high pressure known as a heat dome over much of the United States.
The persistent heat dome was the strongest on record in several locations, including parts of Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri, according to National Weather Service offices there.
A weather balloon launched by the National Weather Service office in Topeka, Kansas, on Monday detected atmospheric data indicating that this heat dome Strong track record for this site. The same is true for Lincoln, Nebraska and Springfield, Missouri.
The heat index topped 130 degrees in Kansas on Sunday and Monday and reached a staggering 134 degrees on Monday in Lawrence. The temperature also exceeded 120 degrees on Tuesday in several states, including Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.
The Denver Public Schools system announced that 16 elementary schools and middle schools in Denver, Colorado, have suspended classes early due to the heat.
Milwaukee Public Schools was closed Wednesday with an extreme heat warning still in effect for the area, the school district said. All after-school activities, athletics, recreational childcare camps, community learning centers and safe spaces are also canceled or closed for the day.
The district announced that schools will remain closed Thursday and all after-school and sports programs will be canceled.
In Missouri, Kansas City Public Schools will release students early for the rest of this week because some classrooms do not have air conditioning units. The temperature index in the area may reach 110 degrees.
“It is important to note that many of our high schools do not have air conditioning units in all classrooms, and the current air conditioning units are suffering due to this unusual heat, unable to maintain a comfortable temperature within our facilities.” The Kansas City School District said.
In Iowa, 100% of classrooms in Des Moines Public Schools have air conditioning — and the air conditioner runs around the clock to maintain the most comfortable indoor temperatures, the school district said.
However, “most school buses are not air-conditioned; “Riders should expect these vehicles to be warm throughout the day,” Des Moines Public Schools said.
Some schools from Chicago to Omaha, Nebraska, canceled outdoor activities until the extreme heat ends.